Community Emergency Response Teams
One part of personal preparedness that I promote is that if my family is prepared to help ourselves during a disaster, that frees up resources to assist those who can't (or, unfortunately, won't) help themselves. By encouraging others to prep, we can further reduce demands on the system.
A lot of our friends and neighbors around the country have started doing more to aid not just themselves, but their communities. They are becoming a part of their local C.E.R.T. Team. C.E.R.T. is not about being a hardcore survivalist, search & rescue stud, sheriff's posse. It's retirees, housewives, school teachers, college students, business owners... people from all walks of life who come together to learn the basics of disaster recovery and then support their community's efforts. They free up the resources of the fire department, rescue squads, police departments and other professional rescuers. They might help secure the perimeter of a tornado-struck neighborhood. They can be called upon to search houses for stranded elderly people after a flood starts to recede. They can provide triage assistance at the county fair on a 100 degree day.
Not every community has C.E.R.T., but it is growing. In most places that have it, it falls under the fire department or the office of emergency management. To join, a person has to complete some basic training under the guidance of a C.E.R.T. instructor. Topics include: Disaster Preparedness; Fire Safety; Disaster Medical Operations; Light Search & Rescue; C.E.R.T. Organization; Disaster Psychology; and Terrorism. All of that is followed by a disaster simulation, and may also include area-specific weather threats. The classes are typically one evening or morning a week for 6-8 weeks, so it is quite a commitment.
There is also an on-line class a person can take. It is a basic overview of the full class, and might be good to gauge your interest. It will not substitute for the in-person class. To take it, visit the C.E.R.T. training page.
If it looks like something you might be interested in, check here to see if C.E.R.T. is in your locality.
By the way, if you want C.E.R.T. gear, most places issue it to the course graduates... but if you're like me, the issue gear is never good enough, and you'll want to upgrade. Our sponsor of the week, Essential Packs has a great selection of C.E.R.T. gear ranging from a simple shoulder patch all the way up to a deluxe kit.
C.E.R.T. won't be right for everyone, but it is a valuable addition to a community's emergency planning and operations, and just might be right for you.