CERT coordinators ask: Are you ready to evacuate in 10 minutes?

CERT training includes fire suppression in addition to direction on responding to emergencies in an appropriate manner.

During the Station Fire and subsequent floods, many local residents were ill prepared for evacuation, sheltering-in-place or other situations that demanded action. The recent storms, which damaged over 40 homes and resulted in the red tagging of nine more, have shown that there may not even be 10 minutes to evacuate in an emergency.

Paul Dutton, the Head C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team) Coordinator for Crescenta Valley, advises families to have a disaster plan and a Grab and Go Bag ready to go for each person living in the home. It should have a change of clothes, extra shoes, rain gear, flashlight, water, toiletries, prescriptions, glasses, a whistle, energy bars, food, a First Aid kit, radio and extra batteries, some extra money and an extra set of car keys – anything that may be needed for three days away from home. He added that a kit should be prepared for the family pet(s) as well.

“Our last storm showed us the power of nature,” said Dutton. “We were all probably getting tired of the county warnings and the evacuation notices and getting complacent. Now the very thing we were afraid of happening – a massive debris flow – [has occurred].”

Dutton added that when evacuating, important papers such as insurance, mortgages, birth certificates should all be in a separate suitcase or safe. Homeowners should also have pictures of their home, inside and out with its contents, kept secure.

To expedite a safe departure, the family car should be parked facing out and off the street ready to go. Keep keys, wallet, glasses and spare money ready by the front door.

Another possibility is of being stranded at home due to mudflow. Families should be ready to shelter in place for three to five days until county workers clear a path that is safe to travel. If the mudflows are serious enough, they could break power lines, gas lines and even water mains. Extra food, bottled water, medicines, propane and flashlights with batteries, etc. should be stockpiled in case of this type of emergency.

Dutton said not to wait for notification to get out, but foothill residents should be vigilant, watch the weather constantly and have a family disaster plan ready to go. Those who live in an area previously evacuated shouldn’t wait, but leave early.

“You are responsible for your family’s well being; don’t expect emergency personnel to save you as they may not even be able to reach you,” said Dutton.

He added that early preparation is key, not waiting until the deputy knocks on the door.

And of course being CERT trained would be beneficial not just to one’s family but to the entire community, he added.

The value of being trained is an asset for local law enforcement as well.

“I think CERT is an integral part when the community wants to raise its knowledge for emergency situations where they can take care of themselves, their families and their neighbors,” said Capt. Dave Silversparre of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station. He added that in an earthquake situation, for example, having CERT members check different areas to ascertain any damage, then report back to their leader is a “great tool” for the sheriff’s incident commander.

He commended Dutton’s dedication to the organization and to training community members in responding appropriately to various emergency scenarios.

CERT training can help prepare family and neighbors. CERT training begins on Feb. 20 – 26.

Contact Paul or Lisa Dutton at (818) 249-8378