How to Join Your Community Emergency Response Team

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Photo by: Rama

In the wake of recent emergencies like the Boston bombing and Hurricane Sandy, we saw people going out of their way to help protect their communities. One way that you can help in situations like these is by joining your local Community Emergency Response Team.

The CERT is made up of volunteers from a community who are trained to help in emergency situations. CERT members are trained in fire safety, light search and rescue, disaster medical operations and traffic control.

While this program is a partially run by FEMA, CERTs are created through collaboration between community members and local government emergency management and response agencies. FEMA provides a set of guidelines for CERT training which are adjusted to fit local conditions. FEMA provides a directory of established CERTs throughout the country.

New York City has an established CERT managed by the Office of Emergency Management. Due to the high number of first responders in the city, the NYC CERT focuses more on assisting first responders than responding to emergencies themselves.

During emergency situations CERT members provide support to emergency services personnel. In some disaster situations, CERT members will assist with initial emergency response while professional first responders are on their way.

In non-emergency situations, CERT members help educate community members about emergency preparedness. Members do this by using the Ready New York Program.

To join your local CERT, you must be over the age of 18, live or work in the city and pass an OEM background check. If you meet these requirements, then you can sign up for CERT training.

CERT training is a 10-week program taught by active members of the NYPD, FDNY and OEM personnel. The curriculum is based on FEMA’s national CERT program and includes protocol for how to respond to various New York City emergencies.

At the end of training, volunteers participate in an emergency simulation that includes all of the relevant information for their training. If you successfully complete the training program, then you will be able to serve on your local CERT.

After graduating from CERT training, you will be given NYC CERT credentials for a 6-month probationary period. To receive permanent credentials, you must attend team meetings, participate in planned OEM events and get the approval of your team chief.

Permanent CERT credentials must be renewed every 2 years. Credentials can be renewed by completing a series of courses, exercises or events. Re-credentialing requirements can vary between teams, but OEM provides a list of standard requirements. Credentials will then be renewed by your team chief.

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