I’ve just completed Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training (except a final live drill in a nearby neighborhood), and I’ve been impressed with the thought that’s gone into the task. The situation is that in a major emergency natural or man-made: tsunami, terror attack, tornado, hurricane, explosion, or in our case, earthquakes, the capabilities of first-responders (police, paramedics, fire) will be overwhelmed.
The plan is that volunteer teams trained to take initial action as a mechanism to save lives. The situation would be grim. If it’s needed, there will be life-threatening injuries, death, damage, and more. And even trained responders will be under considerable stress.
Consequently, the design is very focused, making sure the volunteer responders are safe, not going beyond their training, and first identifying and categorizing the help needed, before actually taking any action. It’s hard to think about having to barely help someone (particularly, say, a child) and moving on, but that’s what will achieve the best result overall, as they repeatedly tell us.
To facilitate, they’ve done an impressive job of providing resources to optimize the chances for success. They’re focused on communication and task support as really the two key things. In addition to the training, they’ve provided resources and very specific performance support tools.
If and when such an event happens, everyone knows where they’re supposed to report, and how to get going. The first thing found is a folder that as soon as you open it, it starts telling you exactly what to do. If you follow the directions, you’ll be led to create a team, check in, and head off on the first area needing to be searched.
There are guidance forms for everything, and even simple things like blank paper behind a template with cutouts to store info, then share via radio. Then you rip out the sheet, and another blank one is behind.
It’s hard to remember everything you’re supposed to do (only 2 people do the physical search, one scribes, one leads; call out to see if anyone’s there first; assess structural safety; mark what’s found and move on, the list goes on). But there are tools and job aids for everything, so it’s hard to go wrong. And that’s important, because this will likely be a situation where cool and calm are out the window.
It’s reassuring to see the thought that’s gone into the tools we have to use. I hope I never have to, but I feel better knowing that if I do, there’s a lot of well-designed support. I recommend both that you consider getting CERT training, and also look at how they’ve taken a very tough task and broken it down into a command situation.