According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, “If available, emergency services personnel are the best trained and equipped to handle emergencies…you should use them. However, following a catastrophic disaster, you and the community may be on your own for a period of time because of the size of the area affected, lost communications, unpassable roads.”
This warning appears in the foreword to FEMA’s loose-leaf “Community Emergency Response Team Participant Manual.” A copy of this comprehensive volume is issued to each qualified CERT volunteer who has taken a course followed by an exam. I have access to a copy that was issued to a volunteer in New Canaan, Conn., where CERT methods are used extensively and effectively. Much can be learned by talking with the people in charge there.
The text goes on to explain that “CERT training is designed to prepare you to help yourself, your family, and your neighbors in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Because emergency services personnel will not be able to help everyone immediately, you can make a difference by using the training in this Participant Manual to save lives and protect property.”
The manual points out that “for the initial period immediately following a disaster—often up to three days or longer—individuals, households and neighborhoods may need to rely on their own resources for: food, water, first aid, shelter. Individual preparedness, planning, survival skills, and mutual aid within neighborhoods and worksites during this initial period are essential measures in coping with the aftermath of a disaster.”
The 20-hour CERT training program covers disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, CERT organization, disaster psychology, and, finally, terrorism and CERT. Each of these subjects has a separate chapter in the manual.
My hope is that the Rye City Council will issue a call for CERT volunteers and recruit appropriate citizen leadership.