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Maui’s Community Emergency Response Team

Nationwide program readies residents for emergencies.

August 23, 2012
Melanie Stephens , The Maui Weekly

Disaster preparedness. I know you've heard it all before.

"We're the most isolated archipelago on the planet. Our roads are vulnerable to closures. We don't have enough professional emergency staff to handle a big emergency. Our island supply of food wouldn't last very long. You better be ready for the bad thing that's due to happen soon."

It's hard to take dire warnings seriously when everyone is just trying to make a living and take care of family needs. And who wants to focus on possible bad things happening? It's just too depressing.

Article Photos

At a recent CERT course, two trainees practice splinting a broken leg during a simulated emergency.
Photo: Naomi Ashman

Fortunately, there are people who find disaster-preparedness fascinating. This past July, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trainers held an Upcountry course that graduated 26 new CERT members, including this reporter.

Take Nancy Kala, for instance. She's the Upcountry CERT branch director. She's a ham radio operator (for disaster transmission capabilities) and a dedicated leader in the Maui "be-prepared" realm. She runs monthly refreshers on triage, search and rescue, fire fighting, emergency medical treatment and emergency kit gear.

Imagine arriving at a scene in Upper Kula after an earthquake or hurricane, or even just a bad storm. There's a fire from a downed power line, and 30 people are in various stages of panic and injury. The roads are closed due to fallen trees and debris, and you're able-bodied--but overwhelmed. What do you do first, rush to the victim who yells the loudest or bleeds the most? How do you help? Do you have the equipment? Is it safe?

This is the kind of scenario that CERT trainees are thrown into during the course. But they've been trained about the equipment they'll need, and they have it. They know how to quickly evaluate this group of 30 people, sorting (triage) disaster victims into walking wounded, injured but not desperate, those needing immediate attention and those who are dead.

CERT members also know how to put out electrical fires and when to simply move everyone away from a fire that has expanded beyond their capabilities.

In short, they know how to "do the most good for the most people in the least amount of time."

This CERT motto is hammered into trainees so that they don't get focused on that screaming woman with the broken leg, who is actually fine for now, or the pool of blood around the child's forearm that is really a superficial wound, but looks much more dramatic than the quiet man who doesn't seem to be breathing.

You may not know they're in your midst, but there are more than 350 CERT-trained citizens all over Maui. They've prepared to be there for you when an event hits multiple sites on Maui at the same time. They will join their teams and begin sizing up their neighborhoods and regions, scouting for people in need and situations that are unsafe.

They don't get paid. Their reward is empowerment. They are no longer victims of the event; they are rescuers and problem-solvers.

If you'd like to move out of the disaster victim status, you don't have to commit to training as a CERT member. You can gain knowledge about what you'd need if you had to shelter in place--staying at home with no electricity, telephone or grocery store available. You can find a simple list of supplies to collect and store at Then, you'll be ready for much of what nature can throw at you if you're not taken by surprise.

What if a fire or storm or necessary evacuation means you must leave your home and find shelter somewhere else? Maui County emergency shelters do not have stores of food, clean water or blankets. If you arrive without any of these, you are still a victim. If you arrive with a traveling kit complete with one gallon of water per person per day, enough dried food that doesn't require cooking to last for several days, necessary medications, blankets and bedding, pets in safe carriers, and copies of all your important documents, you are a survivor who is ready for anything.

Look to for a complete emergency travel kit.

If you decide to take one of the CERT trainings offered at various locations throughout the year, you will learn from the best: captains and personnel of Maui Fire Department stations, emergency medical technicians, hazardous material specialists, a chaplain of the Maui Police Department trained in disaster psychology and CERT leaders. These professionals know the importance of trained civilian responders in a disaster situation. They volunteer their time to train CERT members to stay safe, take action, and be smart when panic and mayhem erupt.

For further information about CERT training, contact Charnan Carroll at the Maui Civil Defense agency by calling 270-7285 or email

"I am excited to see the CERT program excelling," said Mimi Mitchell, Maui CERT section chief. "Our goal is to train every neighborhood to be prepared for any and all disasters or hazards that may impact us. We also want the public to recognize the CERT green vest and helmet and know we are there to help. I am proud to be a part of such a great team."



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