A couple of years ago, after reading Emergency by Neil Strauss, four friends and I enrolled in a CERT Program. It seemed like it would be a good first step on our road to preparedness and a great first step gaining practical Urban Survival Skills.
What Is CERT
CERT, short for Community Emergency Response Team, is an 8 – 9 week program (four hours every Saturday or Sunday depending on what is offered in your area) teaching people the basics of dealing with a disaster, natural or otherwise.
Participates are educated about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area. They are trained in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.
The information is dispensed in a classroom setting through the use of slides, a text-book provided by FEMA and DHS, and topic relevant guest speakers that are professionals in the fields of; Emergency Medical, Law Enforcement, Fire Fighting, and Search and Rescue. These speakers provide first hand knowledge on the topics and offer real world perspectives, stories, and tips only industry experience provides. The class is typically taught in two part segments. The first half of the class is in the class room presentation. The second half of the class is hands on exercises to reinforce and further elaborate on the instruction.
How Did CERT Come About
The CERT concept was originally developed by the Los Angles City Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985 and went by the name Disaster Preparedness Division. As the story goes, higher-ups in the LAFD noticed that after large Earth quakes, citizens tended to band together and attempt to render aid in a disorganized way. The LAFD decided that since their resources were stretched so thin during major disasters, it might be very helpful to properly train citizens to render aid on a scale impossible for emergency responders to accomplish on their own.
The program became a quick success and drew national attention. Eventually the CERT concept was adopted on a Federal level and taken under the wing of DHS and FEMA.
Why Does CERT Exist
The simple answer is, because during large disasters Emergency Responders canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do it all and be everywhere all at once.
Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services. Factors as number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect at a moment’s notice through 911. People will have to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate life saving and life-sustaining needs.
Was It Worth It
In total, my band of merry men and myself gave up nine Saturday mornings. If you asked us today if we thought it was worth it you would get mixed reviews. I felt the information given was too limited and felt like it was a way of getting private citizens to help, but mostly keep busy and out-of-the-way during a disaster. Over all though there was a lot of useful information. For instance, I had no idea how to properly search a building for survivors or the correct placement of a fire alarm before the CERT Course. The list goes on, but you get the idea.
The impression of the program I get is that in some areas CERT is a tightly knit community in which there are many opportunities to apply the skills learned and further your education. In other areas, the opposite is true.
So far I have received a boat load of emails asking for CERT Volunteers to help with local marathons, an Extreme Makeover episode, and other city events. Apparently, my city views CERT as a free labor pool for just about anything. Admittedly, I did consider volunteering for the Women’s Marathon, but figured the girlfriend would not think that was as funny as I did.
To date, I have received two offers for continuing education. The first was a two-day intensive course on chain
saw operation and debris removal -Ã‚ which I took. The second was for a forty hour course with certification on History and Principles of Crime Prevention, Concepts of Security, Security Alarms, Security Lighting, Locks, Doors, Windows, Glass, Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), Checks and Credit Cards, Shoplifting Awareness, Internal Theft Awareness, Robbery Awareness, Operation Identification, Neighborhood Watch Program overview, Crime Stoppers Program overview and both home security inspections and commercial security surveys to include Liabilities and Resources. Had I been paying attention to my emails, I would have attended this.
I know my tone sounds like I am not a fan. The contrary is true; just trying not to raise people’s expectations beyond where they should be. If you have the time and inclination I would highly recommend attending a CERT Course.
Going Beyond CERT
Once you have completed the CERT Program you can check with your instructor for information and classes in your area to further your knowledge.
The next step for additional Emergency Medical training is to go through a Red Cross First Aid and AED course. Once you have completed all that the Red Cross has to offer, finding further Emergency Medical training is pretty tricky unless you have the time to go through an EMT program. You will notice a drastically different mindset in the Emergency Medical taught by CERT vs Red Cross (I will cover in a future article about the Red Cross).
If you are interested in the CERT program, also checkout the book What to Do When the Shit Hits the Fan.
Also checkout Ready.gov