CERT Challenge: Overcoming Apathy and Procrastination

Couple will depend on others for help in emergency.

“No emergency supplies.” Who will take care of them?

We sat at the 2nd Wednesday monthly meeting of our CERT Division Leaders and Special Team Leaders and stared gloomily as one of our members gave yet another status report about some of “her” residents in the community. “Not one extra can of food. Not one extra bottle of water.”

In some cases, elderly residents were handicapped by lack of funds. In others, the reason is plain apathy, procrastination or worse: “It’s the government’s job to provide for us in an emergency.”

Are “governments” responsible to care for us in a disaster? How capable are they?

We saw an answer to the second question in interviews by the media following Hurricane Sandy’s damage in New Jersey. Local and state governments were overwhelmed and unable to respond. Likewise, relief agencies like the Red Cross and Salvation Army were also overtaxed by the enormity of the event. Some people went weeks without services.

Here in California, following a major earthquake along the San Andreas Fault, all local government and disaster relief agencies are also likely to be overwhelmed. Further, they will be drawn to critically damaged areas to the north and east of us, leaving communities in our area to fend for themselves for up to a week or more.

Are you prepared to share with people who ignored warnings?

The question then becomes one of caring for irresponsible neighbors as well as ourselves in a disaster scenario. And that presents our responsible residents with untenable choices. We are admittedly better prepared than most. By all indications, over 50% of our residents indicate that they have some food and water set aside for just such an emergency, largely as a result of ongoing education programs that span a decade.

But 50% isn’t 100%. More needs to be done.

Maybe if we make a party out of preparing for emergencies . . .

One thing we might do is hold neighborhood survival kit stocking events. First, make a list of critical items (reliable flashlights, radios, can openers, etc.), together with optional food items and their recommended quantity. Research the best sources and prices. Come up with three or four versions of a survival kit.

Get as many neighbors as possible to pick a kit, and pay their money. Buy items in bulk for discounts or discounted shipping.

Then, when the supplies arrive, hold a party to “pick and pack your survival kit.” It’s at least worth a try. We’ll report on our results here.


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