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The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their community and trains them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue operations, team organization, and disaster medical operations. The concept for this community response initiative evolved from repeated large-scale disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes in which the need for emergency assistance far exceeded the capabilities of local first responders. During such situations, it is often the victim or bystander who is, by default, the “first responder” to the scene. In fact, in 95 percent of all emergencies the victim or bystander provides the first immediate assistance on the scene until trained emergency personnel arrives. Launched as a national all-hazards training program by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1994, CERT provides training and organizational tools for community members to support first responders, provide immediate assistance to victims, and organize spontaneous volunteers during widespread emergencies.
CERTs are most commonly organized under a jurisdiction’s fire/EMS department or the emergency management office. Some CERT programs are also sponsored by local law enforcement agencies. Although many people will respond to those in need regardless of whether they are a CERT member, CERT offers in-depth, hands-on training to equip all citizens with the decision-making, organizational, and practical skills they need to offer immediate assistance while waiting for professional help to arrive. The 20-hour basic CERT training prepares citizens to provide critical emergency support effectively and efficiently without placing themselves or others in danger. Many local CERT programs also offer supplemental training to build on team members’ skills and maintain team capabilities.
CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference. Through training, members of a community can extinguish small fires, provide basic medical aid, search for and rescue victims safely, and organize others to be an effective and efficient post-emergency response unit. CERTs may also help with non-emergency projects that improve the safety of the community.
In our local organization, members meet monthly, training, practicing, learning under the watchful eyes of area Fire Captains. Frequently, teams assemble materials for area residents and discuss how they would react and what their assignments would be in the event of an actual emergency.
Occasionally, field trips are scheduled for CERT members, so that they can view emergency operation centers and also have a chance to meet and get to know members of the local
CHP, Sheriff’s, and Fire Departments. In an actual emergency, CERT members would work with and support the actions of local authorities, acting as “eyes” and “ears”, potentially freeing up professional personnel for more important duties. Additionally, CERT volunteers have taken additional training in CPR, and First Aid, so that they may either support medical personnel, or even perform life sustaining activities until trained medical teams arrive after an emergency.
If the information and pictures you have seen here have furthered your interest in CERT to the point of becoming a volunteer, then you can contact David Hobbs, CERT Area Coordinator, at (909) 337-5095. CERT is so popular, that there is a waiting list at the time of this writing. However, this is such important work, that new training sessions are being scheduled as quickly as possible. In no time at all, you’ll be donning your green vest and helmet and joining a team of local residents, ready to perform critical work.
Become a MtnCERT member!