Expo focused on planning for disaster

CERT volunteers practice moving a patient during a recent training.

Photo contributed by Polk County CERT
CERT volunteers practice moving a patient during a recent training.

INDEPENDENCE — Disaster preparedness can seem intimidating — 14-day emergency kits come with a long list of items to gather — but it doesn’t have to be.

“I do a lot of working with people to break it down to smaller components, a little bit at a time,” said Polk County CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Program Coordinator Kimber Townsend.

Be prepared

What: Disaster Preparedness and First Responder Expo.

When: Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: Riverview Park in Independence.

For more information: Polk County CERT Facebook page; Twitter @PolkOregonCERT; or email Kimber Townsend at Ktownsend@polkcou....

Saturday’s Disaster Preparedness and First Responder Expo In Riverview Park in Independence offers a place for people to begin building their emergency plans and kits. That date, coincidently, is National Preparedness Day.

“It’s one of those things that’s easy to say: ‘I know I need to do and I’m going to get to it someday. I’m going to start that soon’ … then life happens, and it gets in the way,” Townsend said. “Even if we get 50 families that leave totally, totally energized to do this and they make good progress, that’s 50 fewer families that have to call for help and 50 more families who can be part of the help after disaster.”

The event is the first such event hosted by CERT in Polk County. Townsend applied for a grant to pay for what she hopes will become an annual expo. Most of the money was put into purchasing items to give away to attendees.

“They are things to start your kit with or safety preparedness. We have six really nice 72-hour kits that we’ll give away and a bunch of LifeStraws and safety whistles,” Townsend said. “We have some car travel kits. It’s like a 24-hour rescue kit for one person. I bought 250 of those to give away.”

Several agencies will be at the expo, giving away information or safety items to people, including most county fire and law enforcement agencies, Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agent’s Region 10 preparedness officer, Western Oregon University’s CERT team and Public Safety Office, and Oregon Emergency Management.

People can learn about how to prepare their pets for disaster and how to get them to come back home after a chaotic event, too.

“I’m excited for that,” Townsend said. “That will be fun for some people.”

A K-9 search and rescue team has live demonstrations planned on scent tracking and recovery missions. Townsend said that is a harsh reality that agencies need to address when talking with residents about major disasters.

“We know, we see it on TV. After a disaster, they are searching for survivors, but after a while you are searching for the ones who didn’t survive,” Townsend said. “Some of that reality, we can’t keep shirking away from that and sugar coating it.”

Creating more survivors — those who can sustain themselves and perhaps help others — is the goal of the expo, Townsend said. She said she’s encouraged local agencies to use the expo to recruit more volunteers.

“People who are coming are interested in what they can do to help. How do I prepare my family and what can I do to help once my family is stable?” she said. “We hope to give them lots of ways that they can be part of the solution after a big event and already be tied into a system that will use them.”

CERT will do the same, and Townsend hopes to make some headway on a goal she’s had for a couple of years: Recruit people who can teach CERT training classes in Spanish.

“We really would love to fully train and fund a team of three or four people who would just be energized to deliver these classes and do it all in Spanish so that part of our community is being served,” Townsend said.

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