How to Prepare an Emergency Response Vehicle

June 15th, 2015 by Rachel Sheelam

During recent record rainfall throughout the Southern U.S. – namely Texas and Oklahoma – floodwaters and tornadoes laid waste to hundreds of homes and caused tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure damage. As climate change continues its ominous march, scientists warn that natural disasters throughout the world are likely to become increasingly more intense (source: NASA). There is a silver lining to this storm cloud, however: as 4×4 truck, Jeep and SUV owners, we have a unique opportunity to help our communities if disaster ever does strike. Here’s how you can make a difference:

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Get CERT Certified

CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) is a branch of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) made up of groups of volunteers who have been trained to assist in a disaster situation. Cities and towns throughout the United States have CERT programs and the vast majority offer certification programs for free.

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“Too often, people will drive by an accident and snap a picture for Facebook or Instagram instead of helping or simply calling 911 – which is why the county of Los Angeles and several others in the state of California offer CPR and first responder classes at a discounted or free rate. This certifies civilians … and encourages those who are first on scene to help those in need of immediate assistance,” says Manny Anguiano, an auxiliary firefighter with the City of Downey Fire Department.

CERT courses vary by region to help prepare communities for the most likely disasters; for instance, the Los Angeles, CA CERT training program puts an emphasis on earthquake preparedness while the Austin, TX program emphasizes flash flood training. Other aspects of CERT program training often include first aid, fire preparedness and even disaster psychology.

You can find more information on your nearest CERT program here: https://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams.

Equip Your Truck/Jeep/SUV for Disaster Relief

If you plan to use your 4×4 to aid your community in a disaster situation, you should make sure it’s equipped with the right gear for the job. What sort of equipment you need will vary greatly depending on your region, so make sure to talk with your local CERT instructors to learn what is needed in your area. Here are a few basics that you should have in and on your truck, Jeep or SUV to prepare it for use in emergency response.

A Radio: It’s important to be able to communicate with other emergency responders during a crisis, which is why your vehicle should be equipped with a radio. There are three types to choose from: CB Radios, which don’t require a license but have very limited range, FRS radios and amateur ham radios*, which require FCC licensing to operate, but have a wide range and relay capabilities.

*If you are a licensed ham radio operator, your radio can also be used to help back up your local emergency departments’ system, providing radio support to other CERT members and their families. Contact your local CERT program for details.

First Aid: The most tragic aspect of any disaster are the lives we lose in our communities. Having a robust first aid kit in your 4×4 and the knowledge to use it properly can help prevent those losses. Even something as simple as a thermal blanket and clean water can be enough to make a difference while you wait for medical experts to arrive.

2015 CERT Rodeo Patient Carry

Off-Road Lights: Disasters go hand-in-hand with low-light situations and long hours, meaning that having the right lighting for your 4×4 can be an enormous help to responders. Lights can be mounted to your vehicle or you can keep portable ones in your gear. Some lights, like the Smittybilt U.F.O LED Safety Light, are specifically designed for emergency situations. In the U.F.O’s case, the product has been engineered as a high-visibility flare with a magnetic back and waterproof structure for maximum visibility and durability.

Vision X has also developed a light for emergency response situations: the Xmitter LED Incident Response Case. It’s a portable lighting system which folds down into a small case, sets up in 30 seconds and reaches a max height of eight feet. Designed for disaster relief, the system provides up to eight hours of light at max output through a self-contained rechargeable power cell – and it even floats.

Rough Terrain Modifications: Depending on the funding you have available, modifying your truck, Jeep or SUV for difficult terrain can provide you access to areas other emergency responders may not be capable of reaching. All-terrain tires, suspension modifications, bumpers and armor not only make your vehicle a better off-roader, but also make it a better emergency and rescue rig.

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Recovery Equipment: Besides traversing terrain that would devastate a 2-wheel-drive-vehicle, your 4×4 also has the unique ability to recover other cars. Whether it’s retrieving a trapped passenger vehicle after a blizzard or rescuing a sedan from high waters following flooding, having the right recovery equipment can make a world of difference. Optimally, your truck, Jeep or SUV should be mounted with a winch and have gear like snatch straps and traction pads in the cargo.

Additional Accessories: Other accessories you should consider for your emergency response vehicle include a fire extinguisher, snorkel kit, fuel and water cans, portable generators and fridge/freezers. This is far from a comprehensive list, so we highly advise you check with your local CERT program to see what equipment they suggest for your area.

“85% of the time, people lost or stuck in the hills or trails are found dehydrated. Water is very important. It’s an easy way to save someone’s life,” says Anguiano.

Know Your Area … And Your Limits

Emergency response time is a key factor in a disaster situation, and one of your advantages as a volunteer is the ability to react immediately to situations close to you. The better you know your area, the quicker you will be able to respond to a need during a disaster.

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However, it’s absolutely vital that throughout all of this you are aware of your limitations. If you’ve never taken your truck off the highway before, don’t put your off-roading skills to the test for the first time during a disaster. By exceeding your limitations, you run the risk of worsening a situation and putting both yourself and others in danger.

Stay Up to Date

Finally, make sure to keep up to date on happenings throughout your area. Your city may need you during a time of intense flooding, or it could just use your help for fire prevention during Fourth of July celebrations. Keep up with your local fire and police departments through their websites and social media and register as a volunteer emergency responder so that when need arises, you can be there.

Rachel Sheelam is a 4 Wheel Parts copywriter. She’s also on Google Plus – follow her to read more articles and keep up with the latest truck, Jeep and SUV news.

 

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About the Author: Rachel Sheelam

The 4x4 and off-road lifestyle was all new to me when I first joined this team, but in the year since then I have developed a true passion for the automotive industry. I've learned more than I knew there was to know about trucks, Jeeps and SUVs - from suspension articulation physics to which types of tires are the best for wallowing in the mud. Whether it's the latest in automotive technology or the best 4x4's in film, I'm always on the lookout for the next big learning curve or news to share. You can keep up with me on my adventure into 4-wheeled life on Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+RachelBowesatTAP/posts

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