Back in 2017, my wife and I moved to Texas from much further North. We thought of extreme weather in terms of snow by the foot, damaging ice and power outages during subzero temperatures. Outside of that, I would consider myself a casual outdoorsman that's experienced the beauty and uniqueness of all four seasons a majority of my life. I knew nothing about the Community Emergence Response Team.
When we arrived at our new home in the middle of Texas Summer, I quickly learned that heatwave meant something entirely different in the South. And doing attic work in Texas during the month of August is something a smart homeowner only does once. My wife quickly discovered FEMA designates part of Tornado Alley for Midwest United States squarely over the city we now call home. Within the first two months, a lightning strike damaged several electronics in our home. My neighbor's fence and roof had been damaged by wind and hail. Our first tornado warning. I cleared out the closet under the stairs just in case. We were not prepared.
Early in my research of local services and support, I came across a monthly publication for citizens seeking to learn more about our city. I noticed a disaster preparedness expo was scheduled later in the month at a big box home store parking lot. I let my wife know and got excited to start learning things I now know that I should've learned much sooner. A few days before the event, hurricane Harvey hit Houston. Almost all of the vendors, (Fire, EMS, Law Enforcement, CERT and other Volunteer Groups) were called on to respond and assist in some way. I saw the event was canceled. When I reached out to see if it would be rescheduled, I happened to connect with a long-time local CERT instructor. He informed me I would have to wait until next year. But encouraged me to learn more about CERT and consider joining this year's class. He said it would be a number of evening classes spread across several weeks. Capped off by a full-scale disaster simulation. That’s why I joined. And in all sincerity, it changed my life.
Education & Equipment
Why I Joined
My primary objective was to get better educated around preparedness and disaster response. Secondary to that, get the gear I needed to be better prepared. And when called upon, respond.
I knew right away that I wanted to dive in and learn about Texas culture, history and of course, barbeque. But I also wanted to learn more about the wildlife, weather, flora & fauna. Now, I really wanted to learn how to prepare for tornadoes and severe weather. What can I do in advance? What tools should I have? What equipment will I need? What happens when a tornado hits town? Or what if it hits our house? But the critical questions were: What am I not thinking about? What don’t I know? (It was a lot)
Why I stay
The world is constantly changing. Techniques evolve. Equipment advances. Many learned skills are perishable. Good teamwork requires crisp communication, clear expectations, mutual experience and collective trust. I believe that I am much more prepared to respond to a disaster than I was in 2017. But I know that I am far from ready.
Continuing education opportunities through CERT have helped me build out knowledge far beyond my involvement with the team. Skills I use in both my personal and professional lives. The more I learn and practice, the more I evaluate and acquire tools. I seek counsel from my fellow CERTs. Our local CERT holds a "What's in your bag?" class that helps me continuously see and hear about new, fresh equipment. And openly discuss pros, cons and the occasional dad joke.
Enablement & Experience
Why I Joined
In prior life experiences I have learned that complex, variable and stressful situations required thoughtful, adaptable and experienced responses. I would need to not only learn techniques and tools, but also practice and execute skills that I currently did not have.
Knowing how to respond would not be the same as being able to respond. I believed that a combination of education, equipment and experience would enable me to prepare and respond to a future disaster. (I was right)
Why I Stay
Our local CERT team schedules a large number of opportunities for volunteers of all abilities to get involved and contribute. We never hesitate to activate when the city calls on CERT.
Leadership is constantly deploying CERT into operations across the community that showcase our membership. While giving CERT responders experience using their wide variety of trained skills. The "time in the field" strengthens comradery that brings with it a sense of community, readiness, acceptance, fulfillment and often times friendship.
The City & Citizens
Why I Joined
We moved from over 1600mi away and used GPS to get to the grocery store for about two months. I drove by our high school for the first time and though our football stadium was a college arena. After six months we continued finding more and more of the city. Mostly by accident. Learning a new city in a new state is something I had not experienced.
My wife and I also did not have friends, family or any roots down in Texas when we arrived. I saw taking this eight-week class with some like-minded neighbors as a good way to do two things. Get to know the city better. And get to know some citizens from the community I call home. Maybe over time, make some friends? (I did. Good friends & business partners)
Why I Stay
With each CERT deployment and event I participate in, the more I learn about the city. We hold or attend events in buildings all across North Texas. We deploy to fire stations, schools, parks, businesses, buildings, fields and parking lots. I've used GPS, USNG and even a map & compass to navigate all across the city.
We meet chiefs, mayors, council members and other city officials. Some of which are CERT responders. Every time I volunteer with CERT, I meet someone new. I learn something new. Or I get to help people. In five short years I've come to love this city. And proudly consider myself a member of the community. My wife is here. Our home is here. My friends and business are here. My CERT is here. I am committed to doing the greatest good for the greatest number. That's why I stay.
What about you?
Why did you join? | Why do you stay?
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