Tuesday, November 23, 2021

CERT: Black Friday? Really??


You cannot not pay me to go out and do Black Friday, but COVID has nothing to do with my aversion.

What I despise is the illogic of purposefully going into a situation where people are frenzied and easily triggered.

I just don't see the need, but others do.

Walmart--as a company--has had the unfortunate luck in the past to have been the site of large-scale fights over things like cheap TVs that lure people in, so they have taken great precautions to improve safety.

For example, “my” local Walmart usually creates a path that people must follow from entry to exit for the safety of shoppers.

And that Walmart is very safe, BUT even so, why risk it?

Black Friday is insanity.

What a perfect venue for a domestic terrorist attack!

I pray against that, but use some common sense if you go out.

Many of us use Thanksgiving as the kickoff to our holiday shopping.

And thieves use Thanksgiving as the kickoff to their holiday stealing from people.

So, that got me thinking about some tips to make parking lots safer for people.

When walking in a parking lot, you want to make eye contact and say hello to people for two very important reasons: (1) if you are being followed you are aware of what the stalker looks like which allows evasive action, and (2) if you are abducted, more people will remember you and be able to describe you.

Comptroller Chris Osborn suggested, “Always be and look confident. Someone who is out to cause trouble always goes for the weak-looking or people just not paying attention in the first place. If you acknowledge the potential threat, that usually makes them rethink their idea. Just be aware of your surroundings.

When you walk through a parking lot, learn to whirl around and walk backward every so often, so as to see what is behind you.

Act like you heard something. 

Or that you are looking for your car.

Practice 360 degree awareness by literally rotating to see all 360 degrees.

And we go shopping alone because we want to buy things to surprise others.

Consequently, we have to ensure that we don't experience a nasty surprise of our own.

But--if you can avoid it--do not venture out alone.

Though--even if you venture out with your best compa--you still need 360 degree awareness for your safety.

These days you can shop online and pick things up at the store with an associate delivering your items to your car.

And you do realize that the frenzy of the Black Friday "deals" gets most people to overspend, right?

So, you may wish to think through your gift-giving strategy.

With so many of us driving crossovers these days rather than sedans with trunks, we unwittingly encourage theft.

Shopping at one store, putting your loot in the boot, and then going to the next and so on is just putting those valuables on display in full view.

Smash and dash.

When walking toward your car, act like your car is opposite where you are actually parked.

We tend to walk past the bumpers of the cars on the side where our car is parked which reduces our view of the area around our cars.

So, if your car is parked on the left side of the lane in the parking lot, walk down the right side so that you expand your vision of the surroundings.

Our good friend--from another team--Lori Hentcy suggests,“When I was a crime prevention officer. I’d also add that once you’re in your car immediately lock your doors, buckle up and leave. Some people have been confronted once they’re already in their vehicles because they start texting, etc. and lose awareness of who is approaching them.

And, for crying out loud, get those Airpods out of your ears because you can listen to Mariah Carey howling off key once you're in the car.

Also, get off your iPhone 13 ProMax because you're not so important to anyone that you must be on it 24-7-356.

Listen and focus; your safety depends on it.

None of this do I write to scare people.

The world is scary enough as is, so lean into your anxiety by demonstrating confidence, 360 degree awareness, and practicing safety.

Oh, and a very loud whistle could not hurt.

Be safe everyone.

Lee Prewett, Program Manager

Bakersfield Metro CERT

Thursday, November 18, 2021

CERT: FAA Full-Scale Emergency Drill

5:45 am Thursday, November 18th...at least it wasn't foggy.

An event two years in planning.

Three months in the hands of CERT team leaders to ready their Kern County CERT/DSWs.

A necessary part of our airport--Meadows Field BFL--demonstrating it can handle an emergency, a competency that must be proven every three years.

Like a passenger jet crashing after take-off with passengers hoping there is a plan to rescue them.

And citizen-volunteers who are CERTs being a trusted part of the response.

Three years ago, our team was not a part of this exercise, but today we were.

Today, we were an integral part of the mission, tasked within our scope of training to do triage follow up.

Here, EMS does the initial triage.

CERTs can't do initial triage because we are not first responders immediately on the ground like EMS, but are instead deployed after our sponsoring agency--the Kern County Fire Department--deems there is an appropriate role to fill within the scope of our training.

When we were activated today, the survivors were already on their green, yellow, red, and black tarps.

Our role as CERTs was to monitor the green and yellow areas for changes necessitating movement.

Because the conditions of survivors change, it is appropriate to have CERTs monitor and assess the triage done by first responders.

The yellows can become red or green and greens can change too.

A green--who seemed totally fine at first--had what appeared to be an epileptic seizure, but monitoring showed that his condition was more severe than a seizure that he would emerge from.

Because of that vigilance--to a number of curves thrown our way--survivors were more likely to get the attention they needed.

Let's call it doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

We were integral--not afterthoughts--and we acquitted ourselves well.

I was pleased to see that the Ricky Responder type of person that wants to ride in wearing a CERT tiara and cape to save the day was not present among the right-minded volunteers from Bakersfield Metro CERT, Greater Tehachapi Valley CERT, Kern River Valley CERT, Mountain Communities CERT, and Pine Mountain Club CERT.

Before the event, I hoped teams would do their honest best with the idea that KCFD would see our strengths and deficits and know what trainings to suggest as follow ups.

Sharon Bonorden of KRV CERT--as she so often does--provided competent guidance and support to her team of 8 CERTs at the site and I would like to think I did likewise with my team of 7 CERTs.

I was very pleased to work with the CERTs from other teams.

Our take away was to dive deep in training the triage tags used by EMS--county teams do not have them--and to provide better real-situation support.

Our understanding of green, yellow, red, and black needs to be a bit more automatic, so that we can increase efficiency in the moment.

I especially want to thank Kern County CERT Coordinator Crystal Jackson and Deputy Chief (KCFD) Butch Agosta for their strong support of CERT in our county.

Of course, I am deeply proud of the Bakersfield Metro CERT/DSWs who were flawless and compassionate in their work today: Vivian Cao, Chris Osborn, Heminee Salinas, and LaQuesha Wiley.

We did it!

Lee Prewett, Program Manager
Bakersfield Metro CERT

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

CERT: My Christmas Break DIY Projects

Who doesn’t love a good do-it-yourself project, especially if allows retail therapy to happen?

The number of pins of DIY projects of twigs wrapped in ribbon hot-glued to boards with “love...family...happiness” scrawled on them on Pinterest are so abundant that I’m certain numerous servers are employed to store them all.

But, what if our DIY ambitions as CERTs go beyond donning Uggs and issuing--in an entitled tone, of course--impossibly complicated Starbucks orders and then waiting with irritated body language before beginning our project?

Hint: The answer isn't to go to Dutch Bros. for a Picture Perfect.

But, it couldn't hurt.

I easily fall for DIY projects that result in training props.

My tabletop cribbing box using Jenga blocks for introducing the concept to Teen CERTs was a fun one to build.

Recently, Bakersfield Metro CERT conducted its first in-person CERT Basic Training in two years and we used two kitschy props such as our Barbie box to develop basic understanding of triage and our Halloween dummies to introduce the concept of head-to-toe assessment.

So Pinteresty...I know!

But, one picture in the training manual got me to thinking...

The image above caught my eye.

The mock-up of a car using PVC pipes would be incredibly simple to construct at a next-to-nothing price.

Such a prop would be able to be knocked down into a storage box for transport to and from a training site.

I honestly do not think anything other than the passenger compartment would be necessary to recreate.

Nor would it be essential to have material covering the structure to connote it being a car.

Granted, an actual car could be used, but where is the fun in that when we can build a prop?

Obviously, CERTs would not extract victims from a car typically.

But, if first-responders are allowing CERTs to do triage--a massive IF in our county--knowing what they will look for first will allow us to give a more detailed size-up.

And if you're the non-CERT Help Until Help Arrives you need to NOT do something that would (1) increase injury and (2) make you the victim of litigation given that Good Sam laws so most decidedly are not iron-clad.

During the same training two of our amazing KCFD firefighters handled the units on fire safety and light search and rescue.

Did I mention I am a sucker for props?

When they carted in this Duesie (correct spelling by the way), I said, "I want that."

Knowing that Co-Director Rafael Ruiz is taking a construction class at our district's adult school for the sheer sake of knowledge--and to give him a reason to walk around with a tool belt--I sent him a quick snap and said, "Make that."

He's a sucker for going to Lowe's to buy lumber; in fact he may go there just to smell the wood.

Building it will be stupendously easy, but as Program Manager I will have to supervise him.

I can assure you my vigilance has nothing to do with ginning up reasons to hang out and grab lunch. #PerishTheThought

And--if during the construction phase--hunger overcomes him, I cannot let Rafael starve; it would be impolite to let him eat platters of Mexican-fusion sushi at Bocados alone.

His wife and my daughter will no doubt roll their eyes, but perhaps they do not understand our true dedication to CERT.

Although we will have a 501c3 in 2022, be able to invite donations, and presumably spend money on toys, we will continue this bent of frugality.

Sure, we could buy things from that kind of company that charges as much for their shipping as they do for the products they sell, but why enrich opportunists when we can do it ourselves?

Doing for ourselves is the essence of CERT and readiness.

I'd love to hear about other teams that have creative approaches to training props.

Lee Prewett, Program Manager
Bakersfield Metro CERT

Sunday, November 14, 2021

CERT: Developing YouTube Personas


I enjoy old photos like the above which is 81 years old.

I can sense--just by looking at it--the personas created by the expressions.

For our YouTube ambitions, we will focus on conveying personas because developing relatable characters drives interest in the message.

Our goal is to learn our way into doing something more than sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher going "wah...wah...wah" all the time.

A persona is "the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others, a role or character adopted by an author or an actor."

Effective YouTubers create characters through which they act, in turn skewing interest--either to tune in or to tune out--but most decidedly not to produce a ho-hum reaction.

Using a persona isn't being inauthentic.

Think of it instead as focusing personality for the sake of the delivery of the message.

Thus, successful presenters often adopt a persona, usually a skewed version of themselves.

On that account we are lucky.

Here are some examples of personas our team has seen already in team trainings:

Co-Director Andres Torres embodies a gentle father-figure stance that engages very well because trainees always feel safe and supported with Andres. It's only after the fact that you realize how deeply engaged you were in the learning.

Co-Director Justin Hiebert would skew as the MacGuyver of our group as he imparts all sorts of clever adaptations for simple things and you almost believe that he could parachute into the wilderness with only a knife between his teeth and live off the grid for the rest of his natural-born days.

Co-Director Rafael Ruiz--a highly effective classroom teacher--adopts a Dennis-the-Menace persona that allows him to push an audience with those “Did he just say what I thought he said?” moments.

Co-Director Trevor Smith comes across as the guy next door that you talk to for hours in the driveway at the lowered tailgate of his pickup with his insight becoming just a matter of easy conversation. Tailgate Talk With Trevor has a nice ring to it.

As we pivot to building a YouTube channel in 2022 personas like the ones above--and ones that with emerge from our other team members who will join this effort--will be part and parcel of our success.

When anyone does a video, the key is to get a desirable reaction from the intended audience.

Because we cannot see the faces of the audience, we are left to wonder what was their reaction.

The number of views--in and of itself--does not mean that the message was appropriate or even that the desired reaction was reached.

Our policy will be to assess the video via multiple eyes before posting it so as to double-check accuracy and appropriateness before uploading.

A certain Stop The Bleed "PSA"--that was really a low-budget music video from a D-List singer trying to look #WOKE and #VirtueSignaling her lungs out--could have benefitted from someone saying, "Nah. That's horrible, inept, and offensive" for example.

We won't make mistakes like that.

Beyond that, we just have to let what happens happen.

Lee Prewett, Program Manager
Bakersfield Metro CERT

Saturday, November 6, 2021

CERT: The 8%ers And Others


Sometimes, demographics do not paint an accurate picture.

African-Americans represent 7.8% of the population in Bakersfield as well as--roughly--the same percent of the make-up of our team.

I rounded up to create the title.

And, our white-versus-Latino split on the team is roughly congruent to that of Bakersfield overall.

But, hold your high-fives for now.

Given the size of our team, that 8% of African-Americans represents one person.

And, if "I" am the only person like me in the room, then it's tough to remain motivated to stay in the room.

Discussing the demographics of a team’s service area is an essential measure of the effectiveness of the team.

So, on paper, Bakersfield Metro CERT's congruence hides the reality that we have to target major growth in two, specific, underrepresented-volunteer areas.

Just as we must increase our numbers with respect to underrepresented language (partial English/Spanish only) volunteers, we must reach out much better than we have been doing to gain African-American volunteers.

For three years, we have doubled our number of deployable Kern County CERT/DSWs, but my goal in 2022 isn't to chase numbers, but to chase inclusion.

In essence, I hope to upset our "perfect" demographics.

But, that does not mean tokenism.

It means focusing on psychographics.

You know, approaching people based on attitudes, values, aspirations, and other humanistic criteria.

We are blessed with a highly compassionate team that--if we reached out to people and tried to get them to look into "that crazy CERT thing"--our team members could give an abundance of mentoring support to those who say, "Hmm...I'll give it a try."

That would demonstrate where our heart is (i.e. our attitudes, values, aspirations, and other humanistic criteria) as we seek to welcome and include others.

But, we may have to go to church in the process.

Underrepresented, language volunteers tend to be churchgoers--though not necessarily universally Catholic churchgoers.

Members of our African-American community tend also to be churchgoers.

Church represents security, safety, togetherness, inclusion, inspiration, community, and family.

Which--ideally--CERT also represents.

CERT in Bakersfield needs to join these communities, if volunteers from these vital communities are going to come to us.

And even as I write this, I am pondering how to approach the LGBTQ volunteers in our community because "being inclusive" is a synonym for "all".

My life would be easier if I could look at semi-congruent demographics and call it good.

But, I can't.

Lee Prewett, Program Manager

Bakersfield Metro CERT

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

CERT: Been to Missouri?


Recently, Jo Christian of Polk County CERT invited me to join their team meeting on Zoom.

She has this crazy notion--that I happen to agree with--that we can learn from each other, if we are willing to listen and to share.

Goodnaturedly, I was asked if I had ever been to Missouri.

When I was a kid, I traveled with my grandparents to Missouri and to Ohio where they had siblings.

I fondly recalled Fortuna--where a great-uncle lived--St. Louis for the Gateway Arch, Amish farmers, and town names like Tipton, Jefferson City, Sedalia, Monett and California.

So, not only do I owe Jo and her team my great thanks for the exchange of ideas, but also for the flood of happy memories.

How fitting it is--upon reflection--that my first opportunity to sit with another team came from the Show Me State.

That motto suggests that people from Missouri value being down-to-earth, commonsense, and fact--rather than fluff--based.

To coin a term, Data-Driven Decision Making (DDDM).

My grandmother who grew up in Freeburg was all of those things.

And, I’d like to think some of it rubbed off.

The chat was instructive on topics of trailers, fund-raising, training, radios, 501c3s, NQS, PTBs, but most importantly about team development.

What I walked away with was the power of honest interaction without having to worry about the new clothes on the emperor of the fiefdom down the road.

A county such as ours (Kern County) could benefit from the regular sharing of ideas among team leaders.

I wonder if that's possible.

Beyond that, the hunger for ideas is readily apparent in discussion groups about CERT on Facebook.

Most of the time, the interactions there are beneficial and thought provoking.

But, discussions there are also sometimes polluted with people who pontificate, who must be correct, and who must get the last word.

That's why this meeting with Polk County CERT was so refreshing; direct honesty carried the day.

I enjoy learning from others and meetings of the mind are enlivening, but I want to hear what others think because from them I can harvest ideas to make my implementation better.

To Jo and her team, thank you from Bakersfield Metro CERT.

We are better for interacting with you.

Lee Prewett, Program Manager

Bakersfield Metro CERT