With the apocalypse a little more than a week away, we assume that many of you currently have a contingency plan, whether that's hunkering down in your underground bunker or accepting your fate with brave humility. But if you're utterly unprepared, these tips from the Lowcountry Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) may be invaluable.
The non-profit organization was established seven years ago, bringing together Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties and training roughly 700 members with free courses held throughout the year. CERT teaches people how to prepare for a disaster and how to manage a disaster once it happened. Lessons include everything from how to put out a small fire to searching and rescuing to preparing for chemical and biological disaster. CERT offers advice for handling hurricanes, earthquakes, and other acts of God, as well as tips for dealing with man-made disasters and acts of terrorism. "The CERT program is designed to give you the knowledge to be not an expert, but to be trained in how to deal in situations like this — mass confusion," Chairman Tom Crosby says.
And we expect there will be much of that come Dec. 21. Keep these tips from Crosby in mind and you just might make it out alive. (Or you can just put them to use during the next hurricane season.)
1. Prepare a bucket kit. That's a bucket of supplies, including food, water, and other necessities. You should have one in your house and one that you can take with you if you're told to evacuate. Make sure to include emergency power sources (like flashlights and batteries), a first aid kit, and any prescription medications.
2. Keep informed. "Listen to your emergency management providers," Crosby says. "That's what their jobs are. If they say to evacuate, evacuate. Don't wait until the last minute."
3. Have a family plan, both for your immediate family and your extended one. That way everyone knows how to get in touch with each other once the disaster has subsided. "We always recommend that you have a contact possibly out of state that you can go to," Crosby says. "All your friends should know those numbers too, so they can call and check on you by calling that person out of state."
4. Don't forget your valuable paperwork if you evacuate. You'll need that stuff eventually, and you never know when you'll be able to get back to your house — if you can get back at all.
5. Plan for pets. Pets need their own food and water and their own valuable paperwork (including documentation of rabies and other vaccinations). If these aren't on hand when you arrive at an emergency shelter, they're not going to let your pet in.
6. Avoid complacency. Just because Charleston hasn't been hit by a major hurricane since Hugo or because those earthquakes that strike Summerville a couple of times a year are low on the Richter scale, that doesn't mean disaster won't strike one day. "You see on the news that Hurricane Sandy killed over 100 people in New York and New Jersey," Crosby points out. "What killed those people in New York and New Jersey is they didn't evacuate when they were told to evacuate."
7. Know your neighbors. CERT courses are designed for homeowner associations and other neighborhood groups, so that they can hold down the fort if municipal aid is hard to come by. In Crosby's own neighborhood (which went without power for three weeks after Hugo), they'll check on the elderly, keep an eye on homes of people who've evacuated, and trade contact info so those who do evacuate know when it's safe to come back. After a storm or other cataclysmic event, these groups can go out and assess the destruction and even start work on damaged structures.
8. Stay calm. And the best way to do that? By taking a CERT course, which you can sign up for at the organization's website, lcert.org. Currently, there's a waiting list for the courses (none of which are scheduled before the impending apocalypse), but FEMA offers similar courses for free online at training.fema.gov/is/nims.asp. But, as Crosby points out with a laugh, "If there's an apocalypse or the end of the world, there's really nothing you can do."