By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
Fire. Floods. Earthquake. Natural disasters of these types are not foreign to residents of the Crescenta Valley. But rather than preparing to feel like a victim, residents can instead get prepared to meet these emergencies by becoming CERT trained.
CERT – Community Emergency Response Training – educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Heading up the foothills training is Paul Dutton, a local businessman who is a certified course instructor that also has years of CERT experience.
A lifelong resident of the Crescenta Valley, Dutton has seen the ramifications resulting from the natural emergencies the foothills community has encountered. During the 2009 Station Fire Dutton was part of the volunteer teams that worked closely with safety personnel and with local residents who were evacuated from their homes. Though circumstances allowed people to leave the area, Dutton is most concerned for those situations when people will have to shelter in place such as the floods of February 2010.
“People are going to be on their own. No resources will be available as we’re used to now,” he said of the mega-disaster that could result from a major earthquake, for example.
Dutton feels that residents can either prepare to be a victim by doing nothing or be prepared for any emergency by taking part in CERT training.
“Too many people say, ‘Gee, I’m too busy [for training]; I’ll put it on my to do list,’” Dutton said. “They’re going to ask when they’re sitting in their house with no food and no electricity, ‘Why didn’t I prepare for this?”
He cites the Station Fire and subsequent floods as examples of how quickly a situation can go bad. “It takes time to pack up and leave,” he said.
Part of CERT training teaches participants what to have in a “Grab and Go Bag” so in case of an emergency they can move quickly knowing that critical information will also be ready to move with them. Most importantly, however, is a family emergency plan.
Dutton reminds residents that emergencies don’t follow a time clock. “Families need to know where they’re going to meet up if an earthquake were to happen during a workday, a weekend evening or some other time when everyone might not be together,” he said. “They need to have a plan in place.”
CERT covers these and many other scenarios. The next training session, which lasts about a week, begins at Crescenta Valley Park, 3901 Dunsmore Ave. in La Crescenta this Saturday, Jan. 22 at 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The course continues Tuesday-Thursday, Jan. 25-27 from 6:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. and finishes Saturday, Jan. 29 from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
Supported by the L.A. County Sheriffs Department, training is offered at no cost, but reservations are recommended by calling Paul or Lisa Dutton at (818) 249-8378 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Registrants must be at least 14 years of age.
“It’s about neighbor helping neighbor,” reminds Dutton. “In time of disaster, being prepared can equal survival.”