Emergency Preparation for the Library and Librarian

Emergency Preparation for the Library and Librarian

Michael R. Mabe (Chesterfield County Public Library, USA) and Emily A. Ashley (Chesterfield County, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6195-8.ch002
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Cert Training

According to FEMA (2011) CERT was first developed in the early 1990s in California as a strategy to develop a volunteer corps to respond to wildfires. Built on the platform of the incident command structure, the program trained members of the community to assist their own neighbors in basic first aid, search and rescue, disaster psychology, and preparedness planning. The program garnered more attention after the attacks of 9/11 due to President Bush’s call to action for volunteers. FEMA’s goal is to strengthen community safety and preparedness through increased civic participation.

The seven-week course is intended to provide whole community preparedness with neighbors helping neighbors. Since libraries are so entrenched in the local community, this course is the perfect baseline for educating library staff on emergency reaction. CERT training allows them to serve in their traditional assignment; but be aware of the hazards and vulnerabilities that may affect their areas during disasters and how to respond as a critical support team.

There is no doubt that customers flock to the library during whole community emergency situations. Many news articles have been published noting customers’ appreciation for the library and its staff in their times of personal need. Due to the success of CCPL’s new found emergency management capacity, library administrators and department managers agreed to enhance the library’s expanded role by participating in CERT.

A specialized version of CERT training was offered to CCPL staff by certified county emergency management personnel. The training covered disaster preparedness and emergency response including a mock disaster drill. While all library staff who participated in the training received a CERT certification obligating them to respond when called, an agreement to not mobilize the CERT trained staff away from libraries during disasters was put into place.

The CERT trained librarian has had a positive impact in Chesterfield County. Every CCPL manager and librarian completed the 20 hour courses. Keeping their interest was not a problem. Already highly educated, they are naturals at ingesting new information and keeping the information current. CCPL’s experience has been that once the librarians are engaged in this training they want to learn everything possible.

Community based preparedness encourages all community members to be prepared for and respond to the hazards that follow a disaster. Studies have shown that groups working together are more effective in the period following a disaster if they have been trained to respond. Further, if the training is interconnected with the social and political makeup of the community including workplaces, their response as a team is even more effective.

The damage caused by natural disasters can severely disrupt individual and community life. Main concerns are restrictions or disruptions to communications, transportation, and utilities. Experts suggest that residents should be prepared to rely on their own resources for up to three days following an event. Because CERT training covers the basic skills that are important to know in a disaster when emergency services are not available, it makes perfect sense that public library members accept and receive this training.

CERT training is composed of seven units: disaster preparedness, fire safety and utility controls, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue operations, CERT organization, disaster psychology and disaster simulation. Each unit is covered individually over several weeks to ensure an effective training experience.

While all the units are critical to the entire training process, librarians should note the following sections are more likely to be used by them when disaster strikes.

  • Disaster Preparedness provides clear understanding of the effects of extreme emergencies on infrastructure and the potential loss of basic services including communication, transportation, utilities and availability of food, water, shelter, fuel, and emergency services.

  • Fire Safety and Utility Controls provides a broad based overview of how fires occur, the impact on homes and utilities, how to size up a fire situation, fire extinguishers and fire suppression and hazardous materials.

  • Disaster Medical Operation covers life threatening conditions and triage including patient evaluation, and basic treatment.

  • Light Search and Rescue addresses how to safely conduct rescue operations.

  • CERT Organization shows how to organize and deploy CERT resources, including how to protect your safety and the safety of your CERT assigned buddy.

  • Disaster Psychology helps participants to understand the psychological impact of a disaster on you, your peers, the team, and survivors.

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