CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is a nation-wide organization that was started after the California earthquakes several years ago, when the 9-1-1 and emergency systems were overwhelmed. At it’s core is ‘first, don’t be a victim’, that is, don’t you become a victim yourself so that someone else has to come rescue YOU! Next, take care of your family, then your neighborhood. CERTs are also trained to organize small groups of non-trained volunteers. CERT members only participate in the tasks that are comfortable for them and to the level of their training, so everyone is welcome.
CERT training focuses on emergency self-rescue, immediate first aid, small fire fighting, search and rescue, communications, and so on for those times that professional first responders are not available. Training consists of three long days, or can be spread out over several weeks at one evening a week. Neighborhoods, churches, schools, 4-H clubs, and businesses all can host CERT teams.
We have been trying to get CERT organized in our home county for about 18 months. While CERT teams consist of community volunteers, they have to be under the sponsorship of a government agency – normally a fire department or emergency management department. We have an enthusiastic sponsor now, and the number of volunteers for the first training class has exceeded capacity.
These are ‘interesting times’: hurricanes, earthquakes, snowstorms, forest fires, landslides, and many other potential disasters. We all need to be ready to take care of ourselves, and plan on not being victims for someone else to rescue.