Training & Education

Ready-Set-Know Festival Shows Residents How to Prepare

The Chatham County, Ga., Community Emergency Response Team teaches residents about emergency preparedness.

Let’s face it, talking about being prepared isn’t fun. In fact, it can be downright boring. Make a kit, have a plan and stay informed. If you live in coastal Georgia, you likely have heard this stuff before, and if you have lived in a hurricane-prone area for very long, probably more times that you would like to admit. While we may hear about emergency planning and preparedness, especially at the start of hurricane season, how many of us actually get a kit, develop a plan and stay informed? Odds are your neighbor isn’t prepared, and probably neither are most of your co-workers. If someone asked you, would you be able to say yes?

Because of the reality of complacency, the Chatham County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) thought of a neat idea in hopes of gaining a little momentum when it comes to preparing. The CERT volunteers — the county has more 400 CERT trained residents and more than 60 active volunteers in the community — wanted to actually show people how easy it is to prepare, rather than just tell them.

CERT volunteer Bert Adams was one of the founders of the Ready-Set-Know Festival. “Sensing that people are busy and have little time to spend in seminars and separated from their families, I thought whatever we developed to prepare our population for emergencies should be family oriented with a festive air about it,” he said. “That way folks would be more inclined to come with their families and learn. Children, brought there by their parents, would learn survival skills in ways that make them less frightening. It could offer an opportunity for parents and children to learn together.”

During the brainstorming process, CERT was presented with the opportunity to partner with Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. and from there, Ready-Set-Know took off. Gulfstream is proactive when it comes to preparedness and allowed CERT volunteers to hold the first-ever festival on the Gulfstream campus. Each year during National Preparedness Month in September, the company encourages emergency preparedness among employees. "Gulfstream is grateful for the many organizations that provided resources for this debut event,” said Tom McIlvaine, Gulfstream’s business continuity manager. “We had an opportunity to work with a fine team of volunteers and were able to further strengthen the already strong relationships we have with those groups. It was win-win. We appreciate CERT's strong sense of teamwork and support.”

More than 400 Gulfstream employees attended the festival held on Aug. 24, 2013; it kicked off National Preparedness Month. Dozens of CERT volunteers were on hand for interactive workshops on various preparedness topics like utility shut off, fire protection and child safety. Other community organizations and businesses participated including municipal fire departments (Southside Fire Department and Savannah Fire and Emergency Services,) Mosquito Control, CEMA, SERVPRO, American Red Cross, Savannah State University, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Home Depot, National Weather Service Charleston, FEMA, Georgia’s Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner and a freeze dried food company, Thrive Foods.

"The Disaster Preparedness Fair was a resounding success,” said McIlvaine. “This was a great opportunity for Gulfstream employees to familiarize themselves with the emergency preparedness organizations in the area and to evaluate their own emergency preparation plans.”

CERT volunteers who orchestrated the festival said the feedback from attendees was outstanding and they especially enjoyed the hands-on concept. Whether or not the attendees went home and started preparing is unknown; however, volunteers do know that for those few hours preparing was fun.

CERT volunteers have taken ownership of the event and because of its success, it’s likely that volunteers will partner with Gulfstream next year to organize another festival and will plan additional events for more Chatham County residents. The overall idea is to reach all residents so when the time comes, they will know what to do and how to do it.

“There were products they had never seen before, service agencies they hadn't known about, training opportunities that were new, and survival skills they learned,” Adams said. “The kids had fun learning, the men liked the gadgets and the moms were comforted by having some direction in protecting their families. Mostly, I think the families learned to train and plan together for their mutual safety.”

Kelly Harley is the Chatham County CERT coordinator.

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