PORT ANGELES — The county has trained more Community Emergency Response Team members this year than it has in the past, Undersheriff Ron Cameron told Clallam County commissioners Monday.
Last year Clallam County Emergency Management trained about 110 CERT members, he said. This year closer to 300 were trained.
The goal, he said, is to train community members to help after a catastrophic event happens in Clallam County, such as a predicted magnitude 9.0 earthquake.
“How do we help 75,000 people out there?” Cameron said. “That’s a difficult thing.”
He said the county works to get CERT members credentialed and that the volunteers have ongoing training.
He told commissioners that though the county is doing its best to be prepared for a disaster, citizens still need to be prepared to survive on their own until help arrives.
That could be a few weeks, depending on what happens.
“If we can’t do anything else as a county, getting the message of preparedness out there is of utmost importance,” Cameron said. “With preparedness, people can take it upon themselves to survive disaster.”
He said the county will not have the ability to meet the needs of all 75,000 people in the county.
Commissioner Bill Peach said he was surprised how many people expect the government to help immediately and who haven’t prepared.
“The cultural change is one of the first barriers you have to break down,” he said. “There will be a period of time that you’re on your own.”
Cameron lauded the efforts of community groups that are preparing for a disaster, including the Joyce Emergency Planning and Preparation group.
The group, which was spearheaded by earthquake-preparedness activist and former state legislator Jim Buck, has worked to prepare the community to survive on its own as it waits for help to arrive.
Last year, the group developed a water filtration system that could provide about 6 gallons of potable water per minute.
JEPP has also worked to stockpile supplies that would be needed and has taken other preparedness efforts.
Cameron said JEPP recently earned an “honorable mention” from the Federal Emergency Management Administration because of the group’s preparedness efforts.
Buck has said that if a catastrophic earthquake hits, the county would be split into what he called “micro islands.” Communities would be isolated due to road and bridge damage.
Cameron said Clallam County Emergency Management has built on that idea and developed five command areas.
Each command area will have its own challenges during a disaster, he said.
“Geographically [Clallam County] changes quite a bit,” he said.
The commissioners also heard from Alan Barnard, who is leading an effort to create a Disaster Airlift Response Team in Clallam County.
The DART is a team of local pilots that would transfer supplies and resources in and out of affected areas and help injured people to safety, he said.
Barnard told commissioners he had been working on a similar idea 10 years ago, but there was too much red tape for it to be feasible.
He then found a Disaster Airlift Response Plan being used in California that is now being adopted in Clallam County.
“We have 16 pilots signed up … and ready to go,” he said.
He said there’s no guarantee that they will all be able to help during an earthquake because their families would likely be dealing with the impacts of the quake. But he said it’s important to have a group that has volunteered to help.
The DARP would be an annex to the county’s comprehensive emergency management plan.
“What we know for sure is if we don’t do anything, then we’ll have nobody there to help,” Barnard said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.