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Ready or Not #29: CERT (Part One)

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

Have you ever heard of CERT? No, not the candy breath mints, but the volunteer emergency team. A lot of people get involved in our communities in a variety of ways. As a matter of fact, I sometimes think that our cities and towns would probably have to shut down a good share of their services if it weren’t for those that volunteer their precious time to make our communities a better place to live.

The Community Emergency Response Team, CERT, is one of those programs that goes on quietly in the background, but is essential to the health of the community, especially in an emergency. CERT was started a few years back in California after one of their big earthquakes. There were a lot of people that were not hurt during the disaster that wanted to help the emergency personnel. The only problem was, people that were not hurt from the disaster would oftentimes get hurt while trying to help others. The good intentions and the heart of volunteerism were there, but the information and safety training was not.

After the disaster was under control and life “got back to normal,” the emergency personnel got together and talked about how they had received “help” from well-meaning people, but how it had actually caused more problems for them. They either needed to train the public to be safe when helping, or to somehow make them stop helping. There were just too many people getting hurt, and in some cases dying, because they didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t think that forcing volunteers to stop helping was the way to go, and so they developed a new program that would train people to help in an emergency, in such a way that would actually be helpful and not harmful. They devised a program that taught the volunteers how to evaluate a situation, and to make sure that all of the safety measures were in place before rescuing somebody or helping in some other way. They developed and coordinated their communications with volunteers so that the most desperate situations would get help the fastest and not waste precious time on something that could safely wait until later.

Of course, because it was California, they had another earthquake, and of course it was a really bad one – BUT there was one big difference this time, the California emergency services had TRAINED volunteers helping them this time. After evaluating the performance of the volunteers, they were shocked at how effective the new volunteer program had been, and what was even better, was that the statistics backed up their observations. At that point in time they knew that this was a program that had to be fully developed and shared with the nation. AND that is a very simplistic background history of how CERT got started. CERT is now part of the Homeland Security program of the United States. It is a good program, and it needs your help to stay strong and useful in our communities.

If you are interested in being CERT certified, call your local city offices to find out when the next training session will be held. Not only will being CERT trained help the community, but it will also benefit your family.


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