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Attention Fellow CERT Members: Please Send In Your Thoughts On The Program — How Is It Going? What’s Working? What Isn’t? How Could It Be Improved? Any Messages For FEMA?

June 23rd, 2010 · 4 Comments

(I am reposting below a request I made earlier this month to fellow CERT members. I have already received a number of thoughtful responses but figured I would ask again before publishing them.)

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 blogHomeland 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 or write in the Comment section below. Thanks.

Community Emergency Response Team training

A CERT training session in Apple Valley, California

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Tags: CERT

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Scott Riker // Jun 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Build a relationship with the local fire stations. Ask if your CERT can participate in training. Almost every fire station conducts drills/training sessions every day and most of the topics can be used by CERTs.

    Twitter: DisruptionMitig

  • 2 Kevin // Jun 26, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Relationships are good, but maybe it is tie to develop some advanced training modules. Develop a variety of courses to help develop additional skills. Traffic control, shelter manageent, shelter operations, supply caches (what should go into them) training and special needs populations, pet sheltering, drill scenarios and group or team training competitions are just a few of the modules that should be developed.
    not all CERT members need all the advanced modules and teams can pick and choose courses or modules to leverage team and individual capabilities.

  • 3 KarenLH // Jun 27, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    We all know CERT teaches the basics and that is a good thing. The basics is where all future efforts need to start.

    Forming a relationship with a local fire department is a good idea and should be persued. But realize that there are some fire departments out there the are uninformed as to the benefits of having a CERT team and therefore you might encounter some negativity or outright rejection to the proposal of a working relationship. DON’T let that stop you!! Be persistant! As with the public, the more you can educate the first responders & politicians on the benefits of having a viable CERT program/team, the better your chances of success!

    Now to address advanced trainning modules, they already exist! You can get advnaced training from sources like the Red Cross (shelter operations), RACES (HAM radio operations), traffic control (your local police / sheriff’s department), special needs training (check with your local or state special needs task force or specific needs groups). Why reinvent the wheel when it comes to advanced training??

    If anyone would like to contact me about other CERT / TeenSERT/CERT matters you can email me directly at

  • 4 Andy Altizer // Jun 29, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Include the graduation ceremony in the last block of instruction, even if that last block of instruction is the drill. In other words, don’t wait a few weeks to have a consolidated graduation with other CERT classes. If you do, you will lose members that cannot take the time off to attend.

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