CERT: Another Part of Emergency Preparedness

November 28th, 2012

Recent events like Hurricane Sandy have shown us that a disaster can strike at any time and it is important to be prepared so that you can be self-reliant during an emergency situation. If you have read our advice about emergency preparedness and take this topic very seriously, you probably are in the process of putting together an emergency preparedness kit. Even if you have a water filter, food supplies, and emergency essentials, you may not be completely ready for any type of crisis situation yet. What if you need help suppressing a small fire or searching for loved ones, and emergency responders have no way of getting to you for several hours or even days? You may want to consider training to be on your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) prior to any disaster.

Humans naturally have a way of coming together in a time of crisis to help one another. CERT, a partner with the federally funded program Citizen Corps, builds on this concept of neighbors helping neighbors. The CERT training program provides emergency response training for groups like community organizations, neighborhood watch, communities of faith, scouting organizations, and workplace employees. The training is typically given in seven weekly sessions with each session lasting about 2 ½ hours. The sessions cover the following topics.

  • Disaster preparedness: Participants learn about actions to take before, during, and after a disaster. They also learn the types of disasters that may potentially affect their community and the laws that apply to volunteers in the area.
  • Fire Suppression: Participants learn how to assess a fire situation, control utilities, properly use a fire extinguisher, and suppress a small fire. Participants will also receive basic training on hazardous materials and fire hazards.
  • Medical Operations: This topic is broken into two sessions. The first session focuses on rapidly diagnosing and treating the “three most common killers”: airway obstruction, shock, and bleeding. The second session teaches participants how to set up a medical treatment area, assess an individual, and provide safe and sanitary first aid.
  • Light Search and Rescue: Participants learn about planning a search and rescue operation as well as search and rescue techniques, with a primary focus on rescuer safety.
  • Disaster Psychology and Team Organization: This topic helps participants understand how victims and workers react emotionally to disasters. Team organization and management principles are also covered.

The last session involves a take-home test and a disaster simulation so the participants can practice the skills they learned throughout the course.

Currently, there are more than 1100 CERT volunteers in the US. Some of these groups were utilized during Hurricane Sandy. For instance, CERT volunteers assisted the Red Cross in staffing a regional shelter in Camden County, New Jersey and groups in Virginia helped provide sandbags to residents. During previous disasters, CERT volunteers have assisted in countless other ways as well.

You never know what can happen in a disaster situation.  Do not be unprepared or the consequences may be quite severe.  Prepare an emergency preparedness kit and consider CERT training.  If you are part of a group that would like CERT emergency response training, you can search for CERT programs near you on the CERT website.


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