City urges citizens to be prepared for natural disasters

The City of Clovis proclaimed September as National Preparedness Month during its Sept. 11 city council meeting. Pictured here is Clovis Fire Chief John Binaski (fourth from left) with members of the Clovis Emergency Response Team (CERT). (Photo by Ron Sundquist/Clovis Roundup)

As hurricanes devastate areas of Texas and Florida, the City of Clovis is placing emphasis on the importance of being prepared for any natural disaster, especially those more common in California such as earthquakes and wildfires.

“You need only to turn on your TV to see the disaster of the week it seems, and preparation is key,” councilmember Drew Bessinger said during a Sept. 11 meeting prior to reading a proclamation recognizing the month of September as National Preparedness Month.

Fire Chief John Binaski, who was also recognized during the meeting by state fire marshal Dennis Mathisen for completing the capstone testing to be the 36th certified fire chief in California, reiterated Bessinger’s comments, adding that no matter how prepared the federal government and local first responders might be, it’s important for everyday citizens to take it upon themselves to be prepared and to assist their friends and neighbors.

Even when we know what is going to happen with a storm coming in, we can pre-position resources and try to do the best we possibly can, but in the end what is really important is for people to be prepared to sustain themselves for a minimum of 48 hours, if not 96 hours,” Binaski said. “That is one of the messages that the current FEMA director is pushing … really what he is saying is try not to rely on government and if we ask you to evacuate, please evacuate, and if you can’t, please make sure you can sustain yourself for a minimum of 48 hours. That is a message we are really trying to take home to people because when national disasters strike, especially here in California with earthquakes or raging wildfires, there isn’t this weather forecast that can give us five or six days notice.”

In an effort to educate themselves and become better prepared, some Clovis citizens have volunteered as part of the fire department’s CERT (Certified Emergency Response Team) program. This team goes through a national curriculum that provides training on how to do first aid, how to extinguish fires and how to be a nucleus for neighbors and assist them in times of need.

Having a local volunteer team is essential, Binaski said, because fire personnel and law enforcement can only do so much.

“If you look at the news media for the hurricane in Texas, I as a fire service professional did not see a lot of the swift water rescue boats that the fire departments pre-deployed, what I really saw was a whole bunch of locals helping locals get out of harm’s way and rescue each other and ultimately in your time of need, that is who you’re going to rely on—your neighbors and the people around you,” Binaski said.

Longtime CERT volunteer Shirley Redman said she is honored to serve on the city’s emergency response team.

“I think we have the most wonderful group of people who volunteer and help the fire department,” she said. “We have so much fun and it is really an honor to be called upon to go out and provide water and a rehab for the firefighters. They appreciate us and we’re glad to help.”

Mayor Bob Whalen thanked CERT volunteers for their efforts in and outside the city.

“Clovis is fortunate we don’t often have a lot of natural disasters coming our way, but we are a community that gives and I know our CERT members are willing not only to tend to themselves and the local community, but when the call comes from somewhere else, they help out when they can,” he said.