Last month, I wrote a post, “As 25th Birthday Approaches, Is It Time To Reevaluate CERT’s Role, Management, Training, Resources, Etc.?”, discussing the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program (which I participate in here in New York City). I was prompted to write it by another post on the blog Homeland Security Watch in which Mark Chubb, a “senior civil servant in an emergency management agency,” recounted discovering the frustrations of the CERT members he met with in Virginia. He concluded the post with this caution to his fellow preparedness officials about the program:
The opportunity cost of ignoring volunteers in exchange for making investments in hardware and software rears its ugly head sooner or later. Eventually, disgruntled if not disorganized volunteers will, as ours did Monday night, remind you that the liveware — the people and relationships that make up a community — are assets to be invested in not just protected or neglected.
In the comment section of my original post (3rd one down), Paul Garth, a CERT member from Ojai, California and organizer of the OjaiOK drill, took exception to what he read about his Virginia colleagues. Garth’s overall point:
“If someone is frustrated and angry, then my question is, “what are you going to do about it?”. Success for any volunteer organization requires a bottom-up grass-roots approach with local membership providing continual positive energy and infinite new ideas being generated. FEMA and the Los Angeles FD can only create the concept of CERT and give moral support — the rest is up to us.”
From different perspectives, Chubb and Garth both describe both the promise of and the challenges facing the CERT program. I know it’s a topic of interest to readers of this blog. (And is timely as CERTs are being deployed to assist in the oil spill response effort).
So, as the program approaches its 25th Anniversary, I thought I would ask my fellow CERT members for their feedback on the program: How is it going? What’s working? What isn’t? How could it be improved? Is there a message about CERT program you’d like to communicate to other teams around the U.S., FEMA, elected officials or the general public?
I will post the responses on the blog and will ask FEMA leadership for their thoughts as well. Either email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write in the Comment section below. Thanks.
A CERT training session in Apple Valley, California