It may have seemed unusual garb for a stake Relief Society president and former Young Women general president (1978-84), but Elaine A. Cannon was dressed in a bright green helmet and vest, looking like a typical rescue hero.
The occasion was the Avenues Preparedness Fair May 11 hosted by the Salt Lake Emigration Stake with involvement from the Greater Avenues Area Community Council of Salt Lake City.
Sister Cannon was stationed at one of the entrances to the stake center where the event was held, handing out emergency preparedness literature. Her vest and helmet underscored the fact that she is one of several leaders in the stake who have been "CERT trained."
CERT is an acronym meaning Community Emergency Response Training, a program administered by local fire departments including the one in Salt Lake City whereby citizens undergo training in disaster preparedness, fire suppression, first aid, search and rescue and disaster psychology.
Such training and certification is essential, and stake leaders learned that the hard way, according to Fred Langeland, a counselor in the stake presidency over emergency preparedness. In August 1999, a powerful tornado hit downtown Salt Lake City, tearing a path through the Avenues section of the city, where the stake is located.
"When the bishoprics and the stake presidency went out into the neighborhoods to help, it was discovered that only those who were CERT trained could cross the emergency barricades," President Langeland said.
It didn't take long to get the message; leaders underwent the necessary 21-hour course to receive the training.
But a further outgrowth of the experience was the preparedness fair. Organizer Donna Busath said stake members took the initiative but were careful to involve the community council and see that a general appeal went out to all community members through publicity in the council newsletter and local broadcast outlets.
The city fire department and other local stake and federal emergency response agencies were invited to and given assistance in setting up booths and distributing literature at the fair. Methods for home storage and production and alternative cooking were demonstrated.
Visitors were given a folder upon entrance to the fair (held inside the building due to rainy weather). They were invited to visit a number of tables and obtain blue sheets bearing the fair logo and giving vital information on subjects such as CERT training, food and water storage and 72-hour kits. They were also given copies of the stake's 2002 Individual Preparedness Plan.
Sister Cannon said part of the value of the fair was in tidbits of information one might not obtain elsewhere. For instance, she said, elderly people should put a list of medications they need in a medicine bottle and store it in a refrigerator, because there it would remain secure even in a fire or flood.
The fair was an event of the stake conference for that weekend, President Langeland said. The conference had as its theme, "If Ye Are Prepared, Ye Shall Not Fear."