Last night I looked up and watched as four strangers applied splints to my arm and leg. Another stranger applied pressure to my carotid artery to stem the bleeding. They worked quickly and watched constantly for any changes in my condition. I felt no pain throughout the process, as I was the volunteer victim during the final hands-on session of my eight-week CERT training course. (CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team, a component of Citizens Corps, which is administered by FEMA. In the United States, there are over 1,100 community CERT programs.) My “victim” experience gave me a deep appreciation of the value of citizen volunteer groups, as they are likely the ones to provide initial treatment in the event of large-scale casualty situation.
Librarians can bring many skills to the emergency planning community. In CERT alone, there is a great need for database managers, newsletter writers, web page maintainers, social media specialists, and information providers at call centers. I am a member of the Info Team, a group of volunteers that takes non-emergency calls whenever the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) has been activated. An example of the type of call the Info Team would receive is someone asking about the availability of pharmacies following a disaster. I’ve also volunteered to provide assistance with social media, such as Twitter.
I highly encourage all librarians to explore ways to take part in emergency preparedness and response activities in their communities or institution. Go to the Citizen Corps website (URL: http://www.citizencorps.gov/) and do a zip code search in the box labeled Find Your Local Council to find contact information for area Citizen Corps organizations. In addition, you can find other volunteer groups by going to the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (URL: http://www.nvoad.org/states#sevend) and searching the Membership tab for your state. Finally, if you want a higher level of training on providing access to information for emergency preparedness and response, check out the Disaster Information Specialization Program offered by the Medical Library Association and the National Library of Medicine (URL: http://www.mlanet.org/education/dis/).
Libraries and librarians are playing a greater role in emergency preparedness and response throughout our nation. Emergency planners are recognizing our value and are working librarians and libraries into their planning strategies. There is a place for each of us somewhere in those strategies. All it takes is some time and commitment. The rewards are immeasurable.