In an disaster, when first responders are overwhelmed, it will come down to everyday citizens.
“Think about what’s happening in Texas,” Christina Brugman said, referring to the historic flooding caused by Category 4 Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast Aug. 25.
Hundreds of thousands of people were without power as the storm continued to batter the region early last week. Tens of thousands of people took refuge in shelters as many parts of Texas were still underwater. Citizens, including many journalists who were on-scene reporting, joined in the efforts to help stranded residents escape flooded homes and vehicles.
“That’s what will happen here in an earthquake, minus the water,” Brugman said.
She said neighbors will have to rely on each other in a disaster.
“(Emergency responders are) not coming for us,” she said. “We’ll have to depend on ourselves.”
Brugman, a volunteer Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) coordinator for the City of Kirkland, urges people in this area to get prepared for a disaster that could easily befall the Seattle area, whether it’s a major earthquake or a wind storm.
CERT is offering a nine-week training course that teaches citizens how to “help themselves, their families and their neighbors during a disaster when police, fire, and medical services are overwhelmed,” according to the CERT program of Kirkland website.
The class meets Wednesday evenings starting this month — which is National Preparedness Month — at Kirkland City Hall. The first class meets from 6-9 p.m. on Sept. 20. The training course is meant for all ages and abilities. Students ages 14-17 are welcome if accompanied by an adult.
It costs $35 for Kirkland residents — those who live, work or go to school in the city — to register for the course. It costs $50 for non-residents.
The course includes a free hard hat, vest, backpack and basic emergency supplies, as well as an optional manual.
Kirkland firefighters and trained CERT instructors teach the FEMA-based curriculum, which includes many hands-on learning experiences culminating in a full-scale disaster simulation drill in which students will practice search and rescue efforts.
Currently, 12 people have registered for the course. CERT needs at least 30.
“We would just really like people to sign up for this class,” Brugman said.
She said people should register for the course because “it’s the right thing to do” and it’s fun.
CERT offers this hands-on training program twice a year.
The first part of the class focuses on personal preparedness, like creating “go bags.”
Brugman, who has been volunteering with CERT for six years, said in a disaster, citizens should prepare to be self sufficient for at least two weeks.
The CERT class teaches students how to be prepared for that time.
Brugman imagines if a large-magnitude earthquake ruptures along one of the three faults running through the Seattle area, the roads will be out, power will be out, sewage might be out and buildings could crumble. It could happen at any time.
“You don’t know where you’re going to be,” she said.
That’s why Brugman keeps her “go bag” of basic emergency supplies — a hat, mittens, shoes, whistle and a first aid kit — in her car.
She also encourages people to have “go bags” prepared for their pets, too.
In a disaster, it will come down to neighbors helping neighbors, she said.
That’s why part of the CERT course assigns participants to map their neighborhood, which consists of getting to know their neighbors, what skills and supplies they might have — like a generator — and getting contact information.
The CERT course will also teach students how to safely conduct search-and-rescue efforts. Students will learn when to stop because it’s too dangerous and will learn the practice of cribbing, which enables them to rescue a person trapped under fallen debris.
Students will also learn wilderness first aid, which prepares them to respond to emergencies using every day materials and objects.
“If you don’t have anything, you can use a magazine and duct tape to make a splint,” Brugman said, giving an example.
The CERT class goes over the hierarchical incident command system so students will know who is in charge, who to report to and what role they play in the emergency efforts.
Other classes include instruction on fire suppression, disaster psychology and recognizing potential acts of terrorism.
The end-of-the-course disaster simulation will take place at 9 a.m. on Nov. 18.
CERT is also hosting several other disaster courses throughout the fall, including a two-hour basic disaster preparedness course set for 7 p.m. on Thursday at Fire Station #26.
To register for the CERT Training Course, the basic disaster preparedness course or any of the other courses offered this fall, visit www.kirklandcert.com.