(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,Â â€œAs 25th Birthday Approaches, Is It Time To Reevaluate CERTâ€™s Role, Management, Training, Resources, Etc.?â€, discussing theÂ Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program (whichÂ I participate in here inÂ New York City). I was prompted to write it by another post on the blogHomeland Security Watch in which Mark Chubb, a â€œsenior civil servant in an emergency management agency,â€ 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 â€” the people and relationships that make up a community â€” are assets to be invested in not just protected or neglected.
In theÂ comment section of my original post (3rd one down), Paul Garth, a CERT member from Ojai, California andÂ organizer of the OjaiOK drill,Â took exception to what he read about his Virginia colleagues. Garthâ€™s overall point:
â€œIf someone is frustrated and angry, then my question is, â€œwhat are you going to do about it?â€. 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 â€” the rest is up to us.â€
From different perspectives, Chubb and Garth both describe both the promise of and the challenges facing the CERT program. I know itâ€™s a topic of interest toÂ readers of this blog. (And is timely as CERTs are beingÂ 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? Whatâ€™s working? What isnâ€™t? How could it be improved? Is there a message about CERT program youâ€™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 inÂ the Comment section below. Thanks.
A CERT training session in Apple Valley, California