By Kristina Houck
Local city officials are reminding community members to be prepared for an emergency. The Solana Beach City Council on Sept. 11 and the Del Mar City Council on Sept. 16 proclaimed September as National Preparedness Month.
“You should always be prepared for emergencies in your home and in your community,” said Solana Beach Mayor Mike Nichols, who noted it’s a particularly important time to remind people because it’s fire season. “To be able to declare this as National Preparedness Month brings awareness so we can, as a city, remind people how important it is to be prepared.”
Launched in 2004 and sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency within the Department of Homeland Security, National Preparedness Month is a national effort that encourages Americans to prepare for home, business and school emergencies. The event aims to provide public awareness concerning emergency preparation, as well as persuade people to take action.
Local fire officials have addressed the public at city council meetings to encourage community members to make a household plan, and assemble a disaster supply kit and go-bag for each family member. Officials recommend those who already have plans and kits to meet with family members to discuss and upgrade their plan and determine what training, equipment and supplies are needed.
“We’re just trying to make sure that people know the best way to mitigate an emergency is to prepare, plan ahead and train for it,” said Dismas Abelman, battalion chief for Del Mar, Encinitas and Solana Beach. “If you prepare and get ahead of the curb, you can take a proactive approach. This gives people the ability to take care of themselves, so emergencies potentially won’t have a large impact on their life.”
In addition to creating a plan and assembling a kit, officials encourage community members to participate in the Community Emergency Response Team program. Program participants complete 24 hours of free training to learn about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.
Since CERT launched in 2004, about 300 people in Del Mar, Encinitas and Solana Beach have completed the program, including a number of local city officials, such as Nichols and Del Mar Councilwoman Sherryl Parks, Abelman said.
“I’m a community leader,” said Parks, who has opened her home to community members to hold educational events and classes under Del Mar’s CERT and Neighborhood Emergency Support Team programs. “I wanted to have working knowledge of the specifics of the program so I could advise it to others who live here.”
Through classroom training and exercises, the program teaches participants how to care for themselves, their family and neighbors should a disaster occur and emergency services are overwhelmed.
“I found it to be very informative and beneficial,” Nichols said. “I learned a lot about being prepared and what to do in the case of an emergency. It’s a great program and I would encourage anyone who is interested to get involved.”
The next CERT training will take place in the spring, Abelman said. For more information about CERT, Del Mar residents should contact CERT Manager Joel Carrington at 858-755-1522 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Solana Beach residents should contact CERT Manager Eric Phillips at 858-720-4412 or email@example.com.
“People have come to depend on the 9-1-1 system, the emergency responders, during day-to-day emergencies,” Abelman said. “We do a great job at going out and fixing whatever is wrong with people. But if you have a large-scale emergency, such as a large-scale fire, emergency responders will be overwhelmed. We need people to get trained so that they can take of themselves, and if they’re so inclined, they’ll have the ability to go out and help their friends and neighbors.”