"We will all be part of it, whether we're prepared or not."
"It" could be anything from a house fire to the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami forecast to strike the Pacific Northwest. Lianne Thompson is working to get local residents more prepared for whatever emergency event may strike as Clatsop County's new CERT coordinator.
Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) are volunteer, citizen-based groups trained and organized to provide assistance during a variety of events, including storms, fires, floods, evacuations and missing-person searches. Four communities – Astoria, Seaside, Jewell and Lewis and Clark – currently have CERT teams, which are sponsored by their respective local fire departments.
In her new role Thompson serves as a liaison between not only the CERT teams but other local stakeholders involved in emergency response including fire departments, hospitals and the Red Cross, and participates in emergency planning with various local, state and federal agencies.
Thompson assumes the coordinator role from Bill and Dorothy Davidson, who organized local CERT training for several years. The couple continues to lead the Astoria CERT team.
"Bill and Dorothy not only have performed great service for the county as coordinators of our local CERT teams, they also lead one of the best-organized teams in the region," said Dean Perez, Clatsop County Emergency Management director.
CERT training provides new volunteers with basic skills in fire safety, basic disaster medical care, team organization and light search-and-rescue. CERT teams conduct ongoing training for members, including disaster simulations.
A key part of CERT coordination is matching teams and individuals to tasks based on their level of training, in order to make sure volunteers are as useful as possible, Thompson said.
Along with coordinating the county's existing CERT teams, Thompson is also organizing the formation of a new team for south Clatsop County. She is working with organizers in northern Tillamook County communities, many of which have well-organized and active emergency preparedness programs, to ensure good coordination and cooperation across the county line.
As a resident of Falcon Cove, located to the south of the Highway 101 tunnel at Arch Cape, she appreciates how easily communities can be isolated from one another in an emergency, she said.
"When we have an event, it will not be respectful of the dividing lines of the counties," she said.
CERT training is useful even if a person's primary focus is simply caring for him- or herself and family during an emergency, Thompson said.
"If we're prepared, we can live our lives more comfortably.