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CERT training proves itself of great value

Last fall, I completed the Laguna Beach CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) six-week training and have recommended numerous times to friends over the last few months, but you never really know how effective training is until you’re thrown into a real-life situation. That happened this weekend when the Aliso Fire broke out behind my house in Top of the World. I was busy in Huntington Beach at the time and hadn’t checked my cell phone in a few hours. By the time I picked it up, I saw dozens of text messages, emails and phone calls about the fire and evacuations. I immediately hopped in my car and started heading back home giving instructions to my husband about what personal items to load in his car in case he and our son had to leave before I got home. This is where preparation and organization made all the difference. I was able to easily guide my husband over the phone to all my personal necessities that he might not think of. I was grateful for his fast action. 

When I was going through the CERT classes, I gave my 13-year-old son an assignment. Make his own 5-15-5 list. It contains what you would take if you had 5 minutes to evacuate, what you would pack if you had 15 minutes and what you would bring if you had 5 hours. His biological mom passed away when he was nine, so you can imagine how important his sentimental and irreplaceable items are. By the time I got home, he had all his significant belongings ready to go, along with a few days’ worth of clothes, his toiletries, his school bag and his prized skateboard to keep him entertained and relaxed during this stressful time. It didn’t stop there. He had everything for our dog packed, he remained calm and he jumped right in to help me douse our back fence and foliage with water. I was and am extremely proud of him. 

As far as most people go, I feel like I’m pretty well prepared, but what I didn’t plan for was me not being close to home when an evacuation was ordered. I also realized that our family needs to share our 5-15-5 lists, so we can seamlessly help each other if someone isn’t home. When conditions took a turn, my husband, our son and our dog headed down the hill overnight continuously getting cell phone updates from AlertOC specific to our actual neighborhood, even down to the side of the street we live on. Of course, we always hope and pray for the best, but it’s imperative that we prepare for the worst. 

Lynda Halligan Olsen

Laguna Beach Resident/Certified CERT Member/AlertOC Registrant

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