What if . . . the horrifying trembling lasted seconds but seemed like forever.  The electrical lines are down.  Homes have toppled.  Neighbors have gathered in the streets.  Some are trapped or injured in their homes.  911 cannot immediately respond; too busy with other emergencies.  What to do?  Whether it be an earthquake, hurricane, or other disaster, our capable first responders cannot respond to every emergency in a mass disaster.  William (Bill) Hanson of the Civil Defense Agency briefed our club on how a community can be trained as a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to properly respond while waiting for the professional first responders.
The CERT program is part of a national effort implemented at the local grassroots level.  The national program is called the Citizen Corps that brings together local leaders, citizen volunteers, and the network of first responder organizations. First-responder organizations can include fire departments, police departments, and health-service providers. By fostering collaboration among all sectors of the community, citizens can participate in making their communities safer, stronger, and more resilient against the threats of terrorism, crime, and disasters of all kinds.
The Citizen Corps Partner Programs include:
  • Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) (supported at the federal level by the Federal Emergency Management Agency)-- educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help.  Possible activities include:
    • Staff a community education booth at community events;
    • Identify safety needs and vulnerable individuals in your neighborhood;
    • Distribute disaster education material in your neighborhood, in multiple languages if appropriate; 
    • Organize drills, activities, and supplemental training for your team;
    • After CERT training, assist in evacuation, shelter management, donations management, care of responders at fires or emergencies, mass care of victims from a large event, damage assessment, and crowd/perimeter control.
  • Fire Corps (supported by Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Volunteer Fire Council)-- build the capacity of fire and rescue departments by connecting them to community volunteers who can assist in a variety of nonemergency roles. Departments utilize citizen advocates in non-operational roles, empowering them to develop, implement, and sustain programs to meet the needs of their community. Engaging citizens allows departments to increase the services they offer, such as enhanced fire safety education programs.
  • Medical Reserve Corps (supported by the Department of Health and Human Services)-- engage volunteers to strengthen public health, emergency response, and community resiliency. Through this program, practicing and retired volunteers trained in healthcare and others interested in public health issues can assist during largescale emergencies and augment the emergency medical response community. Trained Medical Reserve Corps volunteers can also play a productive role in meeting pressing but non-emergency public health needs of the community throughout the year;
  • Neighborhood Watch (supported by the Department of Justice)-- works to unite law enforcement agencies, private organizations, and individual citizens in a nationwide effort to reduce crime and improve local communities. 
  • National Sheriffs’ Association Volunteers in Police Service (supported by the Department of Justice and International Association of Chiefs of Police)-- program provides training and resources for volunteers to assist local law enforcement in performing administrative and non-intervention policing activities to improve public safety.
The next CERT training starts October 8 at the Keaau Community Center, and runs for 4 consecutive Saturdays from 8:30-3:30.  Training is primarily by the Fire Department's Emergency Response Technicians (EMTs).  The training will cover first aid, organization command structure, fire suppression, extrication, and search & rescue.