14 December 2012

Becoming Helpers

     I've seen a quote hovering around the internet today in response to the tragedy in Connecticut. The quote is by Fred Rogers;

 "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

     Now, I think these words are inspired. No matter what happens, or how tough or knowledgeable we try to be, there is always a ray of hope in the darkest hours of disaster; there will always be helpers. What a great thought. What I'm hoping to do with this post is to discuss a few ways that each of us can be "helpers," especially if a disaster strikes a little closer to home.
     Why are we here? I mean, why are we on this blog? I think it's because we want to be ready. We all know that things go haywire, whether big or small, and we've decided we want to do something about it. We aren't going to be happy being subject to the forces of nature or men, so we're deciding now that we aren't going to be. We've talked about the importance of staying calm in an emergency. Having a mindset of vigilance can help you see hazards and act before they become disasters.
     There's a teamwork activity I learned once. Everybody gets a stick. For this example I'll be using toothpicks, but I recommend popsicle sticks because you get to eat the popsicle first.
One stick alone is easily broken.

      When you bundle several of them together, the combined strength is much greater than that of just one. The more you have bundled the tighter they are increases the overall strength.

     Here are all these sticks working together toward the same goal. This little bundle even includes the one stick that broke alone. Even though it is broken on its own, it has become part of a strong group of helpers, each vulnerable and maybe broken alone, but working together, they become a source of hope and inspiration. Each stick complements the others, using their own strengths to the benefit of the whole. That's what we can do.
     I'm not saying we need should all meet together in a bunker for our secret preparedness meetings. What I am saying is that every bit of anything we can learn will become an asset to ourselves, our families, and our communities. There are some things we can do that will allow us to be more helpful in an emergency. Learning CPR and basic first aid are some great steps for anyone to take. Classes are often taught at local hospitals or schools. We've started learning about having a few days' worth of water, and we'll be discussing other important items in the future to have on hand in a 72-hour kit. Knowledge is a resource you can carry anywhere and it doesn't weigh a thing.
     One experience I've had that I think was extremely beneficial is attending a local Community Emergency Response Team(CERT) training. I had tried for some time to get into a class and eventually found one about half an hour away. The class is about six weeks long, one night a week. I want to tell you a little bit of what I understand the history to be behind this kind of program. There was a devastating earthquake in Mexico City in 1985. Like many emergencies, you couldn't just pick up the phone and call for help. Hundreds of volunteers rallied to help, saving the lives of 800 people. This was a a group trying to bundle themselves together, but unfortunately, without training or direction, they lacked the unity of a tight bundle and 100 of the volunteers died.
     Different groups recognized the need for citizens to be trained to meet the immediate needs of fighting small fires, basic first aid, and doing light search and rescue. Eventually, one of the programs was adopted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and became a nationwide program.
     The class I attended was filled with a little family and a bunch of nice old ladies who were part of a church group that wanted to be more prepared. It was quite the experience. We did some practical training and even practiced using fire extinguishers to put out a controlled fire. I think I'll spend more time another day discussing what we did and learned. It is just one of the resources we have to help us be helpers. When we can't call 9-1-1 and we're left to ourselves, we have a responsibility to do what little we can to help others.

I can get the contact information for the person in charge of CERT in my area for those of you here that are interested. There should be a class starting in January.

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