The Government’s Boots on the Ground When It Hits the Fan May Be Your Neighbors
Single Focus Church
June 4th, 2012
It had been several years since I left my positions on the city fire department and county HAZMAT team to move to the mountain state to teach wilderness survival and firearms, but I still missed being an emergency responder. Especially after moving to town when I got married and started a family. When a friend asked me to join him at a CERT training session, all I knew was that it was an acronym for Community Emergency Response Team. A rational person would think that meant it was about becoming part of a team within my community that responded to emergencies. A rational person would be mistaken. Sure, the training covered the basics of first aid, emergency preparedness, fire safety, light search and rescue, etc., but lacked the depth of a boy scout merit badge on those topics. I could not help wondering why FEMA would spend so many of our tax dollars to duplicate duties that, in my professional experience, the American Red Cross and other nonprofit organizations provide for free.
I left the first day of training thinking that CERT, like many other government bureaucracies was just another hole the federal government pours money into hoping it will leach into productivity. I was tempted not to complete the training, but not being a quitter and already halfway to earning a really neat emergency response kit to add to the plethora of gear collected over a lifetime in emergency services, I resigned myself to spending another beautiful Saturday in a folding metal chair or aiming an electronic fire extinguisher at digital flames (we actually did this).
I was surprised to find that this particular CERT team had never actually responded to an emergency. They were put on alert once which the commander was quite excited to talk about. He told us one day CERT volunteers could be paired with uniformed emergency responders when an incident required additional manpower. Another surprise was the speaker they brought in from the U.S. Department of Justice on the final day. The first words out of his mouth were a question, “Are there any militia members or white supremacists here?” While we sat there in stunned silence he continued to explain there was nothing wrong with belonging to a militia or being a white supremest as long as one did not did so within the confines of the law. “If men want to dress up and run around in the woods practicing their First Amendment right, I have no problem with that” he said. He then spent the next couple hours describing the types of behavior he did have a problem with and how militias and other organizations had been infiltrated, enticed to engage in illegal activities, and prosecuted for thinking they had done so. After several engaging tales of covert operations it was time for the real purpose of his lecture for which he prepared his only hand-out, Homeland Security Terrorist Indicators. It provided contact information for the USDOJ and FBI offices serving our area and instructed us to call them anytime we saw ‘suspicious activity’ which included, but was not limited to: