CERT training helps ordinary people prepare to survive the extraordinary

By William Hicks

“Most people don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.”
– John L. Beckley

With all of the development in and around Marina del Rey, it’s not hard to imagine some of us being trapped here in the event of a major disaster. My wife Elise and I had lived in the marina for several years before we noticed the tsunami warning signs, which our next-door neighbor Jeanette pointed out to us one day.

When the 2011 tsunami hit Japan, we were watching the news late that night and were stunned by the footage of the devastation. A tsunami warning was given to us here on the West Coast and we were up all night trying to figure out what were “must take” items.

The tsunami, of course, turned out to be a non-event here except for a few whirlpools and some boats getting knocked around up north. Our neighbor Fred went for a walk along the channel and noticed the water was flowing west (should have been flowing east as incoming tide).

That experience, however, really drove home how important it is to be prepared with extra water, food, emergency supplies and, most importantly, a plan.

Most of us go see movies like “San Andreas,” get our adrenaline fix and then go grab some grub. None of us want to think that a disaster will hit until it does.

If we take a long road trip, we check the car’s oil and water levels, and we make sure that we have an extra tire. So what’s the plan in case of a major earthquake, blackout, flooding from El Nino, or the drought worsens?

My friend Phil says that people tend to be more reactive than proactive. I agree, so let’s get proactive — “Keeping up with the Kardashians” can wait!

Perhaps the nervousness that we feel during an earthquake has to do with knowing deep down that we’re unprepared, feeling cut off from our neighbors and not as self-sufficient as we’d like to be.

There are marina residents, however, who are striving to improve self-sufficiency and community bonds.

Joe Campanella, for instance, is a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) graduate who lives on the east side of the marina with his wife Renee Piane.

Campanella emphasizes the importance of keeping water in our cars in case we get stranded.

“If you’re stranded, you won’t care how long the water has been in your trunk,” he says with a wide grin.

Do you store water? Having a good filter on hand can convert a swimming pool or even the sea into a lifesaving source of drinking water.

Are you too dependent on the grid? Perhaps you should look into solar panels or a generator.

Do you have enough dry food if the shelves at the grocery store are empty? Perhaps you should buy a copy of “Eat the Weeds.” You’d be surprised by how many edible plants grow abundantly around the neighborhood. They may not be gourmet cuisine, but in a time of need you won’t care.

A couple of weeks ago, Elise and I attended a disaster preparedness training held in Mar Vista by CERT graduate Bill Pope (daretoprepare.org).

“I help neighborhoods develop community emergency response teams — mini fire departments — that will respond to neighborhood needs when the now long-overdue Major 8.0+ quake hits Southern California,” says Pope. “When this happens, we will be on our own. The fire department will be able to get to less than 10% of those needing help before they [we] die.”

As if to help make the point, L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl L. Osby hasn’t yet responded to my inquiry regarding how all of the development in the marina would affect emergency response.

We need to stop relying on public and private organizations and learn how to take back our power, so if nothing else we can sleep easier at night.

Bill Boyd, a CERT graduate who lives in the Silver Strand, has hosted emergency preparedness expos through the Venice Neighborhood Council and given talks to Silver Strand HOA members.

Silver Strand Marina Homeowners board member Gary Garland and his wife Beth Holden-Garland, a block captain, recently invited the two Bills to share preparedness tips during a neighborhood gathering at their home. Gary has completed the seven-week CERT course and Beth plans to do so as well. Elise and I are looking into organizing a CERT training here at Mariners Village, where there are 981 residential units.

But the first step is getting to know your neighbors.

Marina Peninsula Community Council member Sandie West encourages residents to attend the MPCC’s annual summer event happening from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, at Union Jack Mall and Ocean Front Walk.

“We are building a community that cares for each other, and in a disaster that is what would be needed most,” says West.

The MPCC, incidentally, is looking for volunteers for its disaster preparedness committee. Call (310) 439-8005 or visit mp-cc.com.

If you have a plan and plan to act, you’ll feel a lot better when the ground starts shaking or the sky starts falling.