What is CERT?
The mission of the CERT Program is to educate citizens to be better prepared to take care of themselves, family, friends, neighbors and/or co-workers in the event of an emergency or disaster that may impact their community until trained emergency first responders arrive. The goal of the CERT Program is to train citizens in emergency response skills such as: emergency traffic control, fire safety assistance, light search and rescue, disaster medical assistance and team organization techniques. Using the training obtained in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members are able to assist others in their community during and following an emergency event. CERT members are also encouraged to support emergency first response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their communities.
What training is required in order to become a CERT member?
In order to become a certified Vermont CERT member, one must participate in the CERT Basic Training Course which provides twenty hours of classroom and hands-on practical training and covers basic skills that are important to know during or following an emergency or disaster when various services may be unavailable. Learning how to act as individuals first, then members of a team, trained CERT volunteers can provide invaluable assistance to their communities.
What if I want to do more than just the basic training?
CERT members can increase their knowledge and capabilities by attending classes provided by other community agencies in such areas as: special needs concerns, donation management, community relations, shelter management, debris removal, utilities control, disaster animal rescue, advanced first aid, Automatic External Defibrillator use and CPR skills. Local Citizen Corps Councils (via Local Emergency Planning Committees [LEPCs] within Vermont) can help the program flourish by encouraging CERT members to assist local first response agencies with emergency response tasks and non-emergency activities which provide emergency preparedness and may help to alleviate some responsibilities of first responders.
How can CERT benefit the community?
People who go through CERT training have a better understanding of the potential threats to their home, workplace and community and can take appropriate steps to lessen the effects of these hazards on themselves and within their communities. If a disaster or other emergency occurs that overwhelms local response capabilities, CERT members can apply their training learned in the classroom and during hands-on activities to give critical support to their families, neighbors or co-workers until first responders arrive on scene. When help does arrive, CERTs provide useful information to first responders and are often able to support their efforts, as directed, at the emergency site. CERT members can also assist their local first response agencies with non-emergency projects that improve the safety of the community, such as: special event scheduling, fundraising activities, promotional events, disaster preparedness, community outreach and general administrative work.
Who can take the training?
Anyone can take the CERT Basic Training Course. Naturals for the training are: local emergency management directors, locally-based community organizations, communities of faith, school staff, workplace employees, scouting organizations and other groups that come together regularly for a common purpose. There are no age restrictions involved with becoming a CERT member. Members range in age from teenagers on up.
CERT skills are useful in various emergency support roles and in order to assist with non-emergency projects improving the safety of communities. In order to become a CERT member, the CERT Basic Training Course should be taken in coordination with an established CERT and is sponsored by Vermont Emergency Management or a local first responder agency associated with this CERT.
What if I have concerns about my age or physical ability?
There are many roles within a CERT for someone who wants to be involved in emergency preparedness and response within their community. During and following emergencies, CERT members are often needed by first responder agencies to assist with: emergency traffic control, emergency operations center documentation, setting up shelter operations, comforting victims or providing other assistance. Other non-emergency related team activities may be preferred, and include: keeping databases updated, developing and maintaining a website, writing and distributing monthly newsletters, providing emergency preparedness workbooks to local businesses or residences, helping plan special events and organizing fundraising activities associated with local first responder agencies.
Why take CERT training?
Local government prepares for everyday emergencies. However, there may be an emergency or disaster that could overwhelm the community’s immediate response capabilities. The primary reason for CERT training is to provide citizens with the decision-making, organizational and practical skills to offer assistance during emergency situations. While people will respond to others in need without the training, the goal of the CERT program is to help people do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.
How do CERT members maintain their skills?
One way to develop a cohesive working relationship between CERTs and first responder agencies is by encouraging agency personnel to participate in training activities with CERT members. CERT’s in Vermont communities take the responsibility of their own training. Teams can design activities and hands-on training for themselves and with other teams. Attendance at monthly team meetings and providing community outreach via LEPC meetings are also essential ways to maintain skills and to promote team capabilities. Getting involved and staying involved in one’s community is the key to a successful CERT.
What are some specific steps that citizens can take to be more responsible for their safety?
We can all take some important steps right now to help ourselves, our families, neighbors and workplace prepare for a possible disaster, public health incident, crime or terrorist attack. Important preparedness measures include, but are not limited to:
- Having emergency supply kits in the home, vehicle and workplace.
- Practicing family evacuation and communication plans.
- Learning about the natural hazards in the area and the terrorist threats we all now face.
- Understanding alerts, warnings, local emergency services and emergency plans for local schools, the workplace, the neighborhood and the community.
CERT training will educate the participants in all the above.