San Francisco program aims to train public to aid in disaster situations

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In Harvey ravaged Texas, a big part of the story is the huge outpouring of physical help from the public. In cities all over California, there's a program that trains volunteers to help in the event of a disaster.

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San Francisco Fire Captain Erica Arte Seros is in charge of the city's NERT training, short for Neighborhood Emergency Response Team, a program that stemmed from the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

She says people were doing everything from helping firefighters with traffic control and actually carrying their hoses.

In February in San Jose, flooding prompted the evacuation of 14,000 residents and caused $100 million in damage.

Hundreds there volunteered to clean up the mud and debris and helped people get back into their homes.

A disaster zone can spur ordinary folk into action. It's an area where people can come together and do positive things to help others.

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The San Francisco Fire Department wants this network in every part of the city before the next big disaster.

Since neighbors know best who's in their district, they know who's missing and who's not -- so NERT teaches people how to search structures and leave what's called a "search marking" for firefighters.

Once that's done, the professionals coming behind don't have to search the same buildings over and over again and can direct their attention to other important things.

NERT trainees can also augment a 911 system that's overwhelmed. They're trained to provide damage assessments and injury reports to the fire department in a very specific and organized way.

They can also learn how to render basic first aid to treat people who aren't seriously injured, thus helping overworked first responders.

And the time to take training is now, when you may be complacent because there is no emergency.

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