Naples CERT

Naples Island residents watch as a CERT member extinguishes a fire during the community’s first drill last October.

John Angelo had a grandiose idea: Convince 500 of his fellow Naples Islands residents to help create an emergency response proposal.

Not a neighborhood watch program, but a response initiative — created from scratch with the help of the city and the Long Beach Fire Department — to aid residents should a disaster strike.

Last year, his idea became a reality as 500 people agreed that a plan was needed. Angelo then coordinated eight volunteer/resident activation sessions and pioneered a block captain training session. Additionally, almost $20,000 in cash and in-kind sponsorship for training and equipment was raised. And last month, a 16-page emergency response book was published that was hand-delivered to every resident on the island.

“It (500) was a stretch goal,” Angelo said, “but we did it. So now on the island, we have 3,600 residents, but (of the 500 volunteers) fewer than 50 who have been Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trained. That means our ratio of residents to CERT-trained people is about 70 to 1.”

Angelo said he isn’t satisfied. He wants 500 more people to be a part of the plan by summer and 50 more block captains.

“We are very proud of the progress we have made and would love to inspire other communities to follow suit,” he said. “We have many insights to share from our 12 months of pioneering. Other communities need not reinvent the wheel.”

Following the success of its first emergency response drill last October, the Naples CERT group is planning a second drill on Saturday, Feb. 8.

According to Angelo, the second drill will involve three blocks as opposed to an island-wide experience. Residents will rotate through a series of scenarios including addressing a gas leak after an earthquake, water pipe breaks and search and rescue basics as well as pet care for pets separated from their owners and medical emergencies when 911 cannot respond.

“The first one went off amazingly,” he said. “This second one will be a bit larger. The fun part about this is bringing general residents into the experience, those not trained, and see how they react and to see if we can lead them.”

Last July, when the Grunion introduced Angelo, he said he moved to Naples Islands from Columbus, Ohio, and that he had never felt an earthquake.

He still hasn’t.

Angelo admitted he didn’t feel a thing, even though there was a 6.4 magnitude earthquake on July 4 near Ridgecrest and a magnitude 7.1 earthquake on July 5 in the same area.

“The same day the article came out (July 4), we had the pre-shock and I was playing tennis," he said. “The next day was considered the real quake and I didn’t feel a thing. I was talking on the phone and when I came inside I saw the lights in our kitchen were swinging.”

Angelo confessed that the earthquakes were a great learning experience for his family, too. The first quake left his daughter standing in the living room crying, but after Angelo and his partner discussed with his daughter what to do if another quake strikes, he found his daughter and their two dogs tucked under the dining room table the next day.

“We need to be talking to our children and planning and training on what to do,” he said. “People should know that there is a plan. We want 500 more people to sign on and say, ‘yes, I will be an informed resident or serve on the committee.’ I would love for it (the plan) to have more life than just for this island.”

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