I have been an advanced member of the Marion County Community Emergency Response Team since 2012. C.E.R.T. members are volunteers trained by the local divisions of Public Safety and Department of Homeland Security to provide assistance in their communities during large-scale disasters where first responders will be overwhelmed and unable to reach all victims immediately. I currently have training in disaster preparedness, Incident Command System, fire suppression techniques, search & rescue operations, first aid, emergency medical triage, traffic & crowd management, animal welfare & rescue, and disaster psychology.
Training is ongoing, and my wife, Kathy, (also an advanced C.E.R.T. member) and I participate in at least one disaster simulation each year. Our dog, Sienna, participates in these simulations as well, although she is now getting far too old to take into actual disaster zones. Disaster simulations in Indiana usually focus on tornadoes and earthquakes, although man-made disasters, such as crashes of commercial airliners, are occasionally simulated as well.
Kathy, playing an unconscious tornado victim trapped under debris, with Sienna portraying a protective dog preventing rescuers from reaching her:
Our training has been put to use in large-scale disasters, such as the Henryville tornado in March, 2012, where my wife and I were among some of the first responders on the scene, as well as smaller scale situations, such as the winter storm of January, 2014, which caused an extended power outage in our neighborhood. In Henryville, we were tracking the tornado as severe weather spotters for Central Indiana Skywarn, and participated in search and rescue operations in the Henryville damage zone after the storm hit. Our dog, Sienna, was able to assist as well, helping to calm down children in the church where survivors were being sent to reunite with missing family members. During the winter storm, we checked on our neighbors to be sure they had sources of heat and provided access to our generator for neighbors to charge cell phones and laptop computers.
C.E.R.T. training is free to the public in counties where it is available.