Learn to be prepared for disaster

San Luis Obispo residents who want to better prepare for unforeseen disasters can enlist in an upcoming training with the San Luis Obispo Fire Department.

The four-week Community Emergency Response Team training was created to teach skills in various preparedness strategies such as utility shutoff at home and at work, fire extinguisher use, medical skills, hazardous materials and terrorism awareness and search-and-rescue techniques.

The goal of the program is to enable community members to help protect themselves and the neighborhoods where they live during a disaster.

“We will teach citizens how to survive so that they can then help others,” said Jason Pratt, program coordinator. “The purpose is to give people the knowledge that they need to stay calm, know what they can do for themselves and then help others and become a part of the emergency response team.”

Christine Noffz, vice president of branch operations for Sesloc Credit Union in San Luis Obispo, graduated from the training in 2003. She enrolled in the upcoming class with her teenage son.

The training, she said, gave her more confidence.

“It is the little things like knowing how to stop bleeding and how to help get someone out of a building,” Noffz said. “When people are in a panic situation, they don’t know how to do those types of things. This training teaches you how to be calm.”

Noffz said that she helped institute a policy that requires all branch managers with Sesloc to attend the training.

Fire officials say that the added support will be essential in any large disaster.

“If we had an incident of some kind here — we only have four engines to respond,” San Luis Obispo Fire Chief John Callahan said. “How many places and situations can they go to at one time?”

Callahan added that even small tasks can help when trying to recover from an earthquake or other major disaster.

“If people know how to shut off utilities — that makes a tremendous difference,” he said.

The recent multitude of large, damaging earthquakes around the world makes the course timely, Callahan said.

“People start worrying less about their dentist appointments and house payments and start thinking about what they would do if a disaster were to happen here tomorrow,” he said.

“This is a teachable moment.”

There are 13 spots left in the 30-person class, which begins May 13 and continues weekly for four consecutive Thursdays from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. The class culminates on Saturday, June 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a mock disaster drill to put the participants’ new skills to the test.

More than 700 residents have completed the training in the past 10 years.

The cost of the course is $50, which includes safety items such as helmet, gloves, vest and goggles.

For more information, call Cindy Sutliff at 781-7399.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.