CERTips – Preparation and Response By Earle Hartling


Fire extinguishers hold a charge for only a couple of years, at most. Since it costs about the same to buy a new one as it does to have the old one recharged, consider a new purchase and a donation of the old extinguisher to CERT. These are used in the training classes, are recharged by the Fire Department at no cost to CERT, and are a part of CERT’s emergency equipment during callouts.

If you have a cell phone, make sure it is always fully charged and keep it with you during emergencies, such as a CERT callout, evacuation, etc. While phone service, including cellular, could be interrupted during a disaster, there is always a chance that it might work. Also, if your cell phone is programmable, make sure your out-of-state emergency contact’s phone number is entered in. That way, you won’t have to rely on your memory or have to look for a phone book that may be inaccessible.

If you’ve redecorated your bathroom with new towels, don’t throw the old ones away or use them as dust rags. Wash them and keep them with your callout kit for use during medical ops as bandages, splints or cushions.

Gas and electric utilities may be interrupted for an extended period of time following a major disaster. Make sure you always have a full tank of propane or extra bags of charcoal briquettes for your barbecue, so that you can cook during the outage. But remember, never cook with these barbecues inside your house! The gases they release during combustion can be fatal in an enclosed space.

When batteries go bad, they can corrode the metal contacts inside your flashlight, rendering it permanently inoperative. Store the batteries for your flashlights, headlamps, portable radios, etc. separately in your callout bag, and only install them when necessary. Or, pull the last battery out of your flashlight and put it in backwards; it will keep your batteries from draining, even when not being used. Just remember to turn it around when you need to use it!

Don’t throw away those little packages of silica that come with many consumer products. While you still can’t eat them, you can recycle them in the pockets, bags and compartments of your callout bag. The silica absorbs moisture, and can help prevent water damage to your CERT equipment and supplies.


To prevent scratches on you safety goggle lenses that could impair your vision, store them in plastic Ziploc bags.

Dehydration is a major concern for rescue workers. Always keep bottles of water in your call-out bag, and be sure to keep them fresh and safe by rotating them out at least annually.

Don’t forget to keep your energy level up by having some quick nourishment handy. Power, protein or granola bars are great sources of energy, and they don’t take up a lot of space. Just make sure to try them out before stocking up, because some of them can taste downright nasty! Also, if you keep your call-out bag in the trunk of your car, you’re going to want to store your snacks someplace else where they won’t melt or cook (learned this the hard way).

As we saw on 9/11, certain disaster conditions can generate a lot of dust and debris. Consider putting a bottle of saline eye solution in your callout kit so that you can flush out your eyes, if necessary.

Keep handy small containers of sunblock (because who needs a sunburn on top of everything else going on) and hydrocortizone cream (for skin irritation caused by your backpack, boots, etc.). Some of the pain reliever of your choice (aspirin, ibuprofen) might not be a bad idea, either.

Never underestimate the importance of dry feet. An extra pair of socks may turn out to be a lifesaver!