For those who were residents in High River and other areas devastated by the 2013 Alberta Flood, you will personally understand how quickly a catastrophic event can occur. I recall coming home from work on that fitful day, watching the six o’clock evening news with disbelief, as the flood waters reached dangerous levels in a matter of hours! We were living in Chestermere at the time, already engaged in emergency preparedness, in the city of Calgary. Unable to know for certain if we would be asked to assist, my husband and I made the decision to travel to Calgary, helping out at the Reception Centre set up at Center Street Church. Our job for those few initial hours was to assist people evacuated from Bowness, as they filled out city forms, for critical information needed before they were moved to a safe location. Centre Street Church knew us from our Faith Emergency Preparedness Initiative and welcomed our help! The individuals who arrived that evening were from a senior’s facility as well as a building housing handicapped people. Looking back, I recall a couple of older ladies who were very distraught, as one had forgotten her oxygen supply, and the other had left her medications behind. They lived alone with no-one to help organize their essentials for daily living. This past weekend, Bridges of Love completed its first Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training in our facility on Centre Street, in the town of High River. We have been in this location for 2.5 years and residents of the town for 3.5 years. My husband and I are not strangers to High River, however, as we spent many months assisting flood residents through Alberta.Recovers.org website; matching donations on-line with people in need, without stockpiling a single item! What a wonderful experience, sharing with those who needed a touch of kindness and understanding, through a very difficult time! CERT is intended for anyone over 18 years of age. Disasters do not prefer any age group, race, religion, socioeconomic class, or position. We are all vulnerable when an overwhelming, catastrophic event strikes our region. We hear much about the mitigation plans for High River where we will thankfully not have to worry about another catastrophic flood. Should we be concerned about a tornado, wildfire, or perhaps a terrorist attack, however? Have we become complacent to the threats we face, without preparedness plans, and how best to care for our families and community? The Alberta Government trusted Bridges of Love with a Civil Society Fund (CSF) grant to share our templates with as many across Alberta as possible, over a two year period. Completing our first CERT Canada Summit with attendees from Edmonton, Strathmore, Lyalta, Calgary, and High River; it was wonderful to have representatives from such diverse communities. CERT strength comes from having 5- 8 team members in each community, who can come together to manage a scene, until the professionals arrive. We have a long way to go until we reach that level of engagement, however, but we know we are on the right track! Our Friday Key-note session with Leann Hackman-Carty, CEO Alberta Economic Development was so informative and interesting. Please allow us to share what she had to say about our program. “Enjoyed speaking in High River last night with Marg Pollon and Deputy Mayor Brenda Walsh about the importance of preparedness, response, and recovery of the latest Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training session. Bridges of Love’s CERT training ensures a safe ‘neighbours helping neighbours’ response. It’s a practical, realistic grass-roots strategy that strengthens community safety and preparedness, through increased civic participation. Personally, I would love to see this program expanded to many Alberta communities and beyond. To find out more about CERT training, contact Bridges of Love directly. It’s not if a disaster is going to happen, it is WHEN! Make sure you know what to do.” We appreciated Deputy Mayor Brenda Walsh attendance to bring greetings from our town and to introduce our special speaker. Brenda has a better idea what our ministry brings to the community and understands we are no threat to our emergency departments or local officials. She now understands that we offer basic emergency training for any hazard that might impact our community and environment that will result in reduced dependence on municipal services, mitigating the damage caused by large scale events. A win-win for all! Shane Schreiber, former Emergency Director, AEMA made this comment, “Building partnerships with organizations like yours is integral to building a comprehensive emergency management system in our province. These partnerships are crucial to our success and ensure what when the time comes, we can work together at the speed of trust.” Our project for the CSF is “The Power of Civil Society, Moving at the Speed of Trust.” When we are adequately prepared as community members, and accepted by the municipality as valuable CERT volunteers; when disaster strikes, we will truly move at the speed of trust! This is indeed Bridges of Love’s desire! We will continue to encourage and inspire others to become involved. Do you see the potential for CERT training in your community, club, faith group, service club, or just wish to be better prepared for your own family. If so, please email Bridges of Love and express your desire to be part of our next CERT training firstname.lastname@example.org or better yet, come on over for a face-to-face visit, as we’d love to meet you! #6, 609 Centre St. SW. (Hours 9 am – 3 pm, Monday to Friday).
Leann’s book, “Master Your Disaster” available through Bridges of Love