As each CERT is organized and trained, its members select a team leader and an alternate and identify an emergency meeting location, or staging area, to be used in the event of an emergency. Teams are encouraged to go into action even during relatively moderate emergencies, regardless of actual need, to gain practice mobilizing and assessing damage.
The staging area is where the fire department and other services will interact with CERTs. Having a centralized contact point makes it possible to communicate damage assessments and allocate volunteer resources more effectively.
Damage from disasters may vary considerably from one location to another. In an actual disaster, CERTs are deployed progressively and as needs dictate. Members are taught to assess their own needs and those in their immediate environment first.
CERT members who encounter no need in their immediate area then report to their staging area, where they take on assigned roles based on overall area needs. Members who find themselves in a heavily affected location send runners to staging areas to get help from available resources. Ham and CB radio links also may be used to increase communication capabilities and coordination.
The CERT program can provide an effective first-response capability. Acting as individuals first, then later as members of teams, trained CERT volunteers can fan out within their assigned areas, extinguishing small fires, turning off natural gas inlets to damaged homes, performing light search and rescue, and rendering basic medical treatment. Trained volunteers also offer an important potential workforce to service organizations in nonhazardous functions such as shelter support, crowd control, and evacuation.
CERT TRAINING PROGRAM
In 8 sessions, volunteers are trained in such basic self-help and mutual-aid emergency functions as:
Classes are taught by trained emergency personnel, including firefighters and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel. The program consists of 20 hours of training and emphasizes hands-on practice.
Upon completion of the course, you will receive a certificate of completion. You should purchase additional safety equipment, such as goggles, gloves, and basic first aid supplies and have them available for use during emergencies. (If you are a member of a business or industry training group, your employer may supply these items for you.)
Training in disaster response should not be a one-time event. Awareness, commitment, and skills must be reinforced through follow-up training and repeated practice to maintain the edge necessary for effective response in the face of an emergency. To maintain your skill level and continually improve performance, you and your team members should participate in continuing supplemental training when offered in your area. Working through practice disaster scenarios with other teams will provide opportunities not only for extended practice but for valuable networking with teams in the local area.