Preparedness Is Important in South Carolina

Hi, and welcome back to my blogging from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Management Institute (FEMA EMI) in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  Today we completed our first of two days instructing the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program Manager course that prepares participants to establish and sustain an active local CERT program.  Our class includes professionals and volunteers who are designated to be or are interested in being appointed a local CERT Program Manager or are already in a CERT Program Manager position.  During the class we address the core components of a local CERT program and focus on effective practices for:

  • Developing local CERT program goals and a related strategic plan
  • Promoting local CERT programs
  • Orienting, managing and retaining CERT members
  • Recruiting, funding, managing, and retaining CERT trainers
  • Acquiring and managing program resources
  • Delivering and managing effective training and exercises
  • Developing policies and procedures for operating a local CERT program
  • Evaluating and sustaining the program

South Carolina is well represented

Often, in the classes we teach, we will have several students from a common location in a class where the students are attending together and representing various entities in that location.  It’s terrific that they are able to attend and train together in the same class.  The discussion and networking that takes place during the week they are together is so valuable.  And in this class we have had six students from the Palmetto State … South Carolina  .    Two of the six represent the State Emergency Management Division , two represent the South Carolina State Guard , one from Georgetown County , and one from the City of Cayce .  All six have been terrific representatives of South Carolina and their respective agencies.

I had an opportunity late this afternoon to visit with these students and learn about their state that has “beautiful beaches and smiling faces” and how CERT may be used in the future preparedness of this wonderful state.

Emergency Management

The South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD), is a division of the Adjutant General’s Office, and is the coordinating agency responsible for the statewide emergency management program.  SCEMD’s mission is to develop, coordinate, and lead the state emergency management program, enabling effective preparation for, response to and recovery from emergencies and disasters in order to save lives, reduce human suffering and minimize property loss.

South Carolina is threatened by many natural and technological hazards.  I found it interesting to learn that the only natural hazard threat they don’t have in South Carolina is volcanos.

South Carolina CERT

In South Carolina, like other states in the Union, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program trains citizens how to be better prepared for disasters and to respond to emergency situations.

The state has had an active CERT program for many years.  Like other states, there have been times when the CERT program was much more active than at other times.  Today, citizens across the state are enjoying a renewed interest in CERT.  More than 2,500 CERT volunteers have been trained in South Carolina.  The South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s primary function is to coordinate resources, offer training and give assistance to local and county level CERTs.

Recognizing the strategic benefit CERT-trained volunteers bring to the community, the state has been proactively promoting CERT throughout the state and working closely with county and local jurisdictions and partners across the state to leverage the benefits of CERT.  Many counties and local jurisdictions within the state (ie City of Spartanburg CERT, Low Country CERT, Lexington CERT, and Williamsburg CERT) have very active CERT teams that regularly provide services to their communities.

Georgetown County CERT

Georgetown County is a diverse county with four distinct areas:

  1. The Atlantic coastline, also called Waccamaw Neck, including the communities of Murrells Inlet, Litchfield, Pawleys Island and DeBordieu, is part of “The Grand Strand” (beach), which includes Myrtle Beach to the north.
  2. The riverfronts have had little recent development.  Today they are primarily wild areas, accessible only by boat.
  3. Georgetown is a small historic city founded in colonial times. It is a popular tourist area and a port for shrimp boats. Yachting “snowbirds” are often seen at the docks in spring and fall; these people follow the seasons along the Intracoastal waterway.
  4. The inland rural areas are thinly populated. Some upland areas are good for agriculture or forestry. Several Carolina bays are thought to be craters from a meteor shower. These areas are rich in biodiversity.

Georgetown CERT has approximately 120 members.  The demographics of the team are such that younger adults are becoming more interested in both the CERT training that’s offered as well as joining the team.  Needless to say, the team is eager to see potential growth opportunities resulting from this newfound interest.

South Carolina State Guard

One of the key partners within the state is the South Carolina State Guard.

The mission of the Guard is to maintain and train an all-volunteer, cadre level military force; expanding, upon need, at the direction of The Adjutant General (TAG) to carry out all or part of the State Missions of the SC Army National Guard (SCARNG), including, but not limited to: supporting civil authorities in maintaining public safety and order as well as protecting essential resources and facilities; providing trained troops capable of meeting the needs of local authorities during short-term emergencies or during the initial phase of an anticipated long-term emergency.

Throughout the United States there are 23 states that have State Guards.  A bit unique to South Carolina is the fact that it is the only state in the country that has an elected Adjutant General.  Every other state’s Adjutant General is appointed.

Until very recently, we had not seen a great deal of military involvement with CERT across the country.  However, you may remember when we were in Hawaii and Topeka, our CERT classes had several military personnel in class.  In South Carolina, the Adjutant general (TAG) has directed that all State Guard members will complete the basic CERT training as a core training element in advance of further mission sets such as evacuation, search & rescue, Point-of-Dispensing Operations, traffic and crowd control, etc.in addition to other National Guard state (non-federal) missions.

Looking ahead the Guard sees CERT as a basic individual training program as well as an outreach support program to county-level governments who want the State Guard to provide assistance to local groups to form CERT’s; and the State Guard will assist the “startup” and then back away.

Operation Military Kids

While not CERT focused, I thought this was a terrific initiative undertaken in the state and wanted to share it with you.  South Carolina Operation Military Kids (OMK) is part of the National OMK initiative designated to provide support to the children and youth of families that are impacted by global contingency operations.  This includes those served by Army installations, Air Force, Navy and Marine bases, and those families, children and youth who are geographically dispersed.

Building upon their past collaboration to support youth development programs, 4-H and its military partners are now placing special emphasis on the children and youth of National Guard and Reserve Solders.

Well, there we have it.  South Carolina is a great place to visit and a great place to live.  Preparedness is alive and well in the Palmetto State that is home to “beautiful beaches and smiling faces”.

 

 

 

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