Preparing for Disaster

On a mild Sunday afternoon in Mid City, I drove over to Queen Anne Park to join 15 of my friends and colleagues, members of The Disaster Preparedness Group (The DPG) based right here in Mid City, for an afternoon of instruction and practice drilling.  We’ve been working for almost two years to get more people trained in this area. The disasters we’re talking about include (but are not limited to) riots, major power/water disruptions, hazardous materials incidents, and, of course, earthquakes. Of  all of the situations I’ve mentioned, the most devastating is the ever-present earthquake

My first steps in this area were made in January 2014 when I took a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) class hosted by Debra Varnado and taught by the LAFD. Debra and I founded the Disaster Preparedness Group (DPG) and we’ve hosted a “Disaster Awareness Course” that brought out 200 souls, active members in Battalion 18’s CERT Unit headed by Larry Bogatz, and we have also brought the 5 Steps Program into West Adams. 

The idea behind CERT is to have groups of citizen first responders available who are trained with skills in personal safety, situational size-up, fire suppression, and field medical when professional first responders are not. CERTs are NOT replacements for them, but will work to bring order, help neighbors survive an event, and make the transition between us and first responders seamless. We’re still civilians and our training core is to avoid becoming casualties ourselves while performing our duties. 

Sunday March 25th’s “day in the park” was to give CERT & DPG members the opportunity to build on the skills we had already received. Debra and I know that continuing training is a must, so we decided to host this single topic session and will do one  every quarter moving forward. Two-way radio operations were the “course du jour.” In disaster scenarios, phones, computers, and conventional communications avenues will NOT be available and communication is key to many things including squashing fear.  We brought our two-way radios and shared with those who didn’t have their own. 

The first half of the day was spent listening to formal instruction from senior CERT member Susan Silver. We learned everything from how to turn on the radios to the best terminology to use when communicating. After the lecture, we took a break and did some radio practice within the park boundaries. The most exciting part came when we divided the group into teams of two, and sent ourselves off into the surrounding neighborhood to “search & report” using a series of “scripted” emergency situations designed to make us comfortable using & talking on our radios. We found out very quickly just how DIFFICULT reporting back to base on a collapsed building or water main break could be when there are three other teams on the same frequency. For those of us at base, keeping straight exactly WHO we were talking to was hair-raising at best. Figuring out which team had the most important situation & giving them priority was unnerving. The idea was to find out what we know and what we don’t know and then to improve. Additionally, putting us in stressful situations like this is preparation for the real thing and we can better adapt to it. I do have to say that there’s more to this drilling as it builds camaraderie within the team and that’s as key as anything else we might train for.  As future sessions come, expect lessons/drills in search & rescue, medical operations, mapping our neighborhoods, and much more. 

Want to get involved? Be prepared to help your neighbors? GO TO or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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