Dayton Ohio, Montgomery County Tornado Disaster

May 27-28, 2019

An Outbreak of 8 Tornadoes

EF4 Tornadoes, with winds of 170mph

Tornado

Living in the Information Age with cell phones and the internet readily available at our fingertips we have instant world-wide communication available to us. It is difficult to imagine life without communication, electricity and information, but in times of disaster, when we need these things the most, cell phones, land-lines, the internet, and roads often stop working. Without these things, the communication and roadways needed for Professional First Responders to be called and get to us are not possible. In a disaster, we and our neighbors will likely be alone; we will be the only help that is available.

It is helpful to know what life is like in a disaster so that we as individuals can prepare for such times. On Monday, May 27th, 2019 at 10:30pm, disaster struck 70,000 people in Ohio. Instead of falling asleap that night, the townsfolk of Montgomery County had tornadoes rip the roofs off their homes, exposing them to torrential rain. Tired, in the dark, and without cellular communication, or passable roads, residents were left to get through the situation on their own. CERT members are trained to manage such situations. They know to shut off gaslines, how to turn off electrical breakers, render medical aid, and search for and rescue victims trapped under debris. Those with radios and who knew how to use them had an extra link/resource available to them that night, while others were less fortunate and were completely unreachable by professional responders. It is difficult to imagine Americans being so isolated, desperate, wet, and alone.

Whether you are new to disaster preparedness, or are a seasoned prepper, I encourage you to listen to this .wav Audio File. It is the radio communication that took place that night, and it captures most all of the situations CERT volunteers are trained to respond to. In it you will hear first hand emergency responders combing the dark streets searching for victims and managing the significant structural damage to the city. This 3 hour 45 minute audio recording was started at about 2:30am ET, three hours after the initial storm struck. Listen to the responders as they find trapped victims and other victims roaming the streets in search of medical aid. As an audio recording, it captures what video footage cannot, for in the darkness of night and storm there is little visibility. Radio becomes the only link to information and aid.

In our comfortable civilized society it is easy to become complacent, but preparedness is something we should all be doing. You may decide to listen to the audio for only a few minutes, or you may find yourself settling in and listening to the recording in its entirety as you would a good book, unsure of what is to come next. The audio of the night seems to go on for ever. I can only image what life was like for those who were there without home in the dead of night. The audio captures all that was known of the incident at the time. Pictures and visuals of the devastation didn't begin to become available until morning the next day. Are you ready for a disaster should you find yourself in one? Are you prepared?

Governor Newsom Awards $50 Million in CERT / Listos Grants

Cal For All

SACRAMENTO – The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and California Volunteers today awarded $50 million in local disaster grants and announced the official launch of the state’s new emergency preparedness campaign, known as Listos (Ready) California.

Climate change has created a new wildfire reality in California and socially vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by devastating wildfires, earthquakes and other disasters. Listos California is a new effort to boost disaster preparedness by engaging a statewide network of community-based organizations, CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), Listos, AmeriCorps NCCC, veterinary organizations, Fire Safe Councils and management teams to ensure the state’s most vulnerable are ready when disaster strikes.

“We need more focus on building resiliency within California’s most vulnerable communities for the destructive and deadly wildfires ahead. We’re empowering non-profit organizations and emergency responders to work together to prepare for emergencies because California is at its best when we look out for each other,” said Governor Newsom.

Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, added, “Community preparedness and peer-to-peer networks can literally save lives and help our first responders during and after a disaster.”

The Governor appointed Karen Baker as the new Senior Adviser for Disaster Volunteering and Preparedness at Cal OES. Baker explained that the campaign will connect over one million of the most socially vulnerable Californians with culturally and linguistically competent support through a grassroots, people-centered approach.

“We know that people who are socially isolated or live in poverty, have language barriers, or other access or functional needs challenges, need to be the top priority for preparedness campaigns,” Baker said.

California Volunteers awarded $30 million to expand Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Listos programs, Fire Safe Councils, AmeriCorps NCCC and AmeriCorps Disaster Cadres to deliver culturally and linguistically relevant emergency preparedness curriculum, and to launch a statewide public outreach campaign.

Cal OES awarded $20 million to community-based organizations in 24 counties across the state to provide emergency preparedness education and to support communities.

In May 2019, during the California For All CERT and Listos Preparedness Conference in San Diego, all of the volunteer teams associated with this effort were officially activated to build and expand their local-level efforts around preparedness.

Merit signs MOU with State of California

Merit

On May 31, 2019 Merit (formerly Sig.Ma) signed an MOU with the State of California to provide the platform for tracking the trainings of CERT volunteers. In addition to following standardized FEMA curriculum, CERT programs often go above and beyond and have the best on-the-ground understanding of what skills and trainings are needed in their community and therefor add advanced education courses for their members. Skills such as Stop the Bleed, Traffic and Crowd Control, and Flooding Operations are taught by these grassroots programs, but until now have often lacked a method to know of and leverage these capabilities in disaster situations where they’re most needed. By leveraging Merit, California Volunteers will, for the first time, have a standardized state-wide view of a volunteer’s capacity, and a uniform view of the specializations the CERT volunteers possess. Furthermore, in disaster situations, where information and trust are most needed, Merit provides a secure, cell phone app-based, inter operable system for verifying every volunteer on-scene, allowing groups and agencies to better work together, without having previously met or collaborated.

The Merit platform is provided to CERT agencies and volunteers for free; now and in the future. Are you and your CERT program tracking your trainings with Merit? Ensure your team is deployable in the next disaster by tracking your trainings in Merit. In addition to Merit being the go-to platform for training and certification of CERT members, Merit is also working with California and other disaster-prone states in an effort to become the official time keeping platform of record. States are responsible for submitting their total volunteer hours to FEMA to get reimbursed for out of pocket expenses during a disaster. Those spreadsheet-based and analog records often don’t get recorded correctly, or not at all, and states end up losing millions of dollars in potential lost reimbursed money.

Merit allows for the digital accessing, tracking, and organizing of other achievements and certificates as well. Merit offers organizations and individuals a way to securely issue and manage digital merits creating a single secure platform to verify personal and professional qualifications versus relying on analog paper certificates, ledgers, and plastic identification cards. Merit is based in Millbrae, CA and was founded by Tomer Kagan and Jacob Orrin in 2016. More information about Merit may be found at merits.com

CERT Teams Using Amateur Radio

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members know that communication during an emergency is vital. Don Lewis of the Alexandria Radio Club in Virginia wants CERTs around the country to know how amateur radios (aka Ham Radio) can help. The City of Berkeley, California’s CERT has already begun using amateur radios in city-wide disaster drills. In the winter of 2018, they held a 24-hour mock disaster where they practiced their amateur radio skills to better prepare their city. They were able to maintain communications in the whole city for the entire 24-hour exercise. This allowed them to relay critical information to citizens and disaster crews. They were also able to use hams to aid the city during a blackout in November of 2017. The CERTs used solar powered batteries in their amateur radios. This allowed them to function even when power and phones were down. 

Amateur radio instructions are also built into Pasadena, California’s emergency management system. The area experiences earthquakes several times a year. The quakes can destroy cell towers and phone lines in an instant. Ham radios can be a huge asset during a disaster like this, so Pasadena has a network of radio operators trained to take over communications any time they need. They can contact hospitals or fire stations to better serve their community. Ham operators can even aide families in contacting one another once a disaster has passed.

Listos (Ready) California

Listos

There is a relatively new word in CERT, it is Listos. Listos is at the center of what California is investing in and working on in the way of California Volunteerism and Disaster Preparedness. CVAID encourages Community Volunteers Active In Disasters to become familiar with the Listos program, its associated philosophies, teachings, and innovations. Please follow California's lead and encourage and support your CERT Team and sponsoring agency in ensuring preparedness support and information is culturally and linguistically relevant to the diversity that exists in the community and that it is not limited to "those who have been privileged enough to access, understand, and afford it" (Governor Newsom).

According to www.listos.org (2/10/2020) "The Listos curriculum came to be after an exhaustive, inconclusive search for Spanish language disaster preparedness information. The little information that does exist on the subject is usually translated from English to Spanish and does not take into account some of the issues that affect many Latinos, including low literacy rates, cramped living quarters, and a lack of financial resources. The Listos curriculum focuses on low-cost to no-cost preparedness initiatives and providing tips that serve participants not only during disasters but also throughout the course of their everyday lives. Building communities and sharing resources is a concept that is highly prized among Latino populations, and Listos recognizes this fact and uses it to strengthen community ties through disaster preparedness awareness." Listos started in Santa Barbara in the fall of 2010 with generous support from the Orfalea Foundation and the Aware and Prepare Initiative. The initiative focuses on building resilient communities by enhancing the capabilities of government agencies and non-profit organizations to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters. An Armenian version of Listos has been created and there are others in the works.

According to Karen Baker, Senior Adviser for Disaster Volunteering and Preparedness at Cal OES, "We know that people who are socially isolated or live in poverty, have language barriers, or other access or functional needs challenges, need to be the top priority for preparedness campaigns.”  Socially vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by devastating wildfires, earthquakes and other disasters, and yet these communities have the least access to preparedness information and support.  California is striving to reach these groups through a grassroots, people-centered approach and by leveraging the power of volunteerism. 

“Emergency preparedness is not government’s responsibility alone. Solutions can’t be top-down – they have to come from the bottom-up,” said Governor Newsom. This approach is counter-culture to the military model that our fire departments are built upon and often continue to function under. People of minority cultural groups tend to come from areas where there is great distrust of government and together with the younger generations these groups are less likely to join an organization. They are likely to be strong supporters of a cause, but are leery of becoming a member of an organization, especially one that seeks or has the appearance of being controlling. The Listos curriculum uses the "strengths and bonds within the Latino community" to educate and prepare its members for emergencies or disasters. Listos works because it is conducted in a teaching style that is approachable and non-threatening.

What is the culture of your CERT Team and sponsoring government agency? Is it built upon top-down directives or is it built on peer-to-peer relationships? Mark Ghilarducci, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services says, "peer-to-peer networks can literally save lives and help our first responders during and after a disaster." Is your CERT Team a grass-roots community based program, or is it controlled by the brass, agency policy, or a core group of "members".  Is there equal opportunity for level 3 members to socialize, network, and feel safe within the group without becoming a level 1 or 2? One of the challenges facing many sponsoring organizations is the need to manage risk and liability. In today's litigious world, this is a real issue. As a result some teams never get a call-out, and as such there is little opportunity to gather, practice, or do team-building. Some agencies have tight controls on their membership roster and social-networking websites. What might your CERT Team and sponsoring agency do differently so as to manage these risks, while at the same time empower the community to better assist Professional First Responders do this all important work? In 2019 Governor Newsom gave CERT and Listos 50 Million dollars to encourage and carry out this agenda. CVAID.ORG is positioned and ready to help! What say you?