Friday, August 29, 2008

How will you "REACT" in an emergency?

The following article was submitted by a Neighbors Helping Neighbors reader (Ric Skinner, Tri-EPIC Regional CERT). "What a wonderful story illustrating what CERT is all about -- neighbors helping neighbors". Items in bold were added to highlight key elements of CERT training.

My name is Stan Walters, Shrewsbury PA. My wife took the CERT training at a fire station in downtown York a few years ago. The following summer she attended an outdoor refresher day. After that I helped her to arrange for York County DES to run the CERT course at our church where I took the class. I then helped to organize the next CERT class and taught the communications segment again at our church. We graduated over 40 people between the 2 classes including one of my sons.

I am the President of York County REACT ( ), a chartered team of REACT International, Inc REACT is a volunteer communications organization but goes beyond Amateur Radio to include the Part 95 services of GMRS, FRS, MURS and CB. Six of our eight team members are CERT trained.

I have taken the following on-line IS courses; 7, 15, 22, 100, 200, 271, 317, 700 and 800. In addition I was invited by the York County CERT coordinator to attend 2 courses, MGT310 and 315 and become a member of the county Threat and Risk Assessment team.

I am active in my county by taking part in varies drills and exercises including last year's Three Mile Island drill and this spring's Peachbottom Nuclear Plant drill. I have never been "called out" or deployed by my county CERT people but my wife and I recently self-activated as instructed in our training.

A severe thunderstorm moved through our area on August 5, 2008. We were checked in to the SKYWARN NET running at the time. The storm struck to our north and east. Seeing that our home and property were OK we jumped in the car to begin an assessment of the neighborhood. We found some residents standing around a tree which had been blown down and was blocking the road. At that point we parked the car and donned our gear.

I called 911, was routed to the PA State Police who said PennDOT would be there in 2-3 hours. I organized the neighbors, someone produced a hand saw and then a chain saw and the group cut up the tree and cleared the roadway. I then called the PA State police and notified them that the road was cleared but the debris remained on the sides of the road. My wife acted as Safety Officer and we used our car's flashers, reflective triangles and electronic flares to divert traffic. We filed an incident report (ICS 201, ICS 214) with York County DES and were told we were the only CERTs to activate and do anything in the aftermath of the storms that day.

Stanton Walters, President
York County REACT


Anonymous said...

Primo example of Neighbors Helping Neighbors. Thanks for adding the story.

Why didnt the police close the road with flares or redirect traffic patterns?

In VA there is law we cant go on the roads or direct traffic. It is probably for our saftey.

Anonymous said...

Stan Walters here, the original story teller. Glad to see this on the blog. PA is a commonwealth so there are 22 individual municipal police departments in my county. All the space "in between", the "no mans land" is covered by the PA State Police. They just don't have the resources. They were not coming at all, they could only wait for PennDOT to clear the road. Under PA law, anyone can direct traffic in an "emergency" but we did not actually direct the traffic at all. The flares and triangles simply alerted drivers to be cautious and then they saw the tree and people. There was only one way they could go.

But keep those comments and ideas coming. We can all learn from each other.