Wednesday, January 26, 2011


By Ellen Cannon [edited for blog space]

On January 12, 2011 Mayor Michael Bloomberg presided at the 16th graduation ceremony of 122 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program helps train people to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations in their day to day life in and around their local communities. When emergencies and disasters occur, CERT members can give critical support to first responders, provide immediate assistance to victims, and organize others to assist at the disaster site. CERT members also assist with local neighborhood non-emergency projects that improve the safety of the community.

New York City CERT volunteers go through a rigorous ten week course aimed at assisting neighbors in disasters which may include hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks, and blizzards. The courses are taught by retired and currently employed first responders.

The ten week training program includes fire safety, search and rescue, first aid and triage. CERT volunteers also assist the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in educating neighborhoods in the importance of preparing their own families for a variety of emergencies.

The CERT program in New York City is a joint effort between the OEM, NYPD, FDNY, and the Health Department.

Today, CERT programs exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 2,915 communities have CERT programs.

New York City’s CERT Programs increased from 106 volunteers in 2003, to more than 1,400 volunteers today contributing 22,000 hours of service in 2010.

As New York City prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the importance of local volunteers assisting the victims and each other is remembered as a critical contribution to saving lives and promoting community resilience.

Successful CERT programs are located throughout the United States and assist in both emergency and non-emergency situations.

New Jersey has one of the largest CERT programs in the country with more than 300 registered teams and over 9000 CERT- trained volunteers. In July 2005, the New Jersey State Citizen Corps Council (NJSCCC) began offering qualifying CERT teams utility trailers equipped to serve as mobile command posts during emergencies. These trailers, containing triage stations and incident support centers, help to provide the necessary tools to assist professional emergency responders during an incident.

The Fairfax County Virginia, Citizen Corps Council worked with faith based leaders to encourage community emergency preparedness through a program “Ready, Pack, Go” .Following an in-depth survey by the American Red Cross which found that only one in ten Americans had developed a personal preparedness kit or a personal or family preparedness plan.The Fairfax County Citizen Corps Council started to train religious leaders to conduct preparedness workshops in their own communities. The focus of their message was,” make a kit, make a plan, and be informed”.

All disasters are ultimately local. Disasters and emergencies will continue. Citizen volunteerism can make a difference in every American city.

Read the whole story on NYC EMERGENCY VOLUNTEERS: SAVING LIVES and BUILDING RESILIENCY - Chicago Homeland Security |