One of the most interesting and fulfilling parts of my preparedness experience thus far has been my participation in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. CERT is a federally-funded program which trains citizens to help the authorities during emergencies. It began in California and has spread across the nation. Here in New York City, there are currently 56 teams in all five boroughs with a total of 1500 New Yorkers.
To join CERT, I completed the 11-week/33-hour training at New York’s Roosevelt Island and then joined my local unit, the East Sixties Neighborhood Association (ESNA-CERT). Thus far, I’ve responded to the plane crash that killed Yankees’ pitcher Cory Lidle near the East River, handed out disaster guides in 13 different languages, played the role of “Rude Evacuee #1” at a major City hurricane drill, and even mixed the hot chocolate at a Red Cross evacuation center. I also received special headquarters training so if something serious happens I can man the CERT desk at the City’s
Our most recent activity occurred a couple weeks ago after the serious crane accident on 1st Avenue and 51st Street. In the days after the accident, our team was asked to distribute bottled and hydrant water to area residents whose utilities had not been restored.
WABC-TV did a story on the CERT activities for its Eyewitness News broadcast. The link is below. You can see my hands filling a bucket at the hydrant and then carrying cases of water up to apartments.
As you can see in the story, we were not doing anything major. But we were helping lighten the load on the authorities and the Red Cross. The residents were thankful to have our help and happy to see their fellow New Yorkers pitching in
The CERT program is clearly a work in progress, but it is very exciting and rewarding to be part of that process.