How To Get Started With CERT in Your Community

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What in the world is CERT all about? Well, the initials, C.E.R.T.  stand for Community Emergency Response Team. You can see a few different tools below that Certified CERT trained people will use in a disaster. We as neighbors, friends, and family need to learn how to work together in the event of an emergency.

A group of neighbors took the eight-week course and we really did learn some great tools to use after a natural disaster or unforeseen emergency. It’s important to know what CERT is and how it can help your community.

How to Get Started with CERT

We also need to have the physical tools as well, in order to help each other.  We are NOT doctors or nurses, but we need to know how to help our neighbors, friends, and family until help arrives, such as government agencies and medical personnel.

It could be a few hours, a few days, or even a few weeks in the most severe situations. None of us know when help may arrive. We NEED to be able to take care of ourselves. We can’t always depend on our government or local authorities, they can only do so much.

Why Every Community Needs CERT

Let me give you some statistics for OUR area in Southern Utah. These statistics are a few years old, but none the less, please look at these numbers in the St. George, Utah (Washington County) area. We have on average 140,000 people living here. Washington County has 17 ambulances, 46 fire trucks, and 204 police cars.

We have two hospitals with 145 beds available. These numbers are scary, we can’t depend on anyone but ourselves. Please check out your local numbers. You might just be as surprised as I was when I saw the reality of the situation.

My husband and I both got certified to help our neighborhood. We called a few neighbors to do it with us. We could only talk three people into doing the class. Here’s the deal, I have no medical training, but I can organize just about anything. I thought to myself, if we could get twenty people to join us, our neighborhood would be in better shape than it was before the classes.

Well, we have five people in our neighborhood trained now. I am thankful to the other three people who will help us if needed. Most emergency or medical people will be at the hospitals or other emergency set up areas when a disaster hits.

What’s In A CERT Bag or BackPack?

Whats In Your C.E.R.T. Bag

The backpack on the left above is actually my bag. The one on the right is my emergency bag with supplies. My husband has his own bags which I will show below. He carries medical supplies. We both have several duplicate items because we might not be in the same area all the time. We have slowly added emergency items to the bags as our budget allowed.

Whats In Your C.E.R.T. Bag

Here are the contents in my CERT backpack:

  • A book to inventory homes and people, different colors of tape to mark the assessment of the injured people (red=needs immediate help, yellow=delay/not immediate, green means they are ok and may not need much assistance, and the black means they are the worst off and maybe dead – Note: we’ll discuss triage and the use of the tape in more detail below), hardhat,
  • Berkey Sports Bottle for filtering water, goggles, headlamp, work gloves, and a 4 in 1 tool (shown below), CERT vest, light sticks and scissors, N95 masks. My N95 Masks: 3M 8000 Particle Respirator N95, 30-Pack or 3M 8511 Particulate N95 Respirator with Valve, 10-Pack
  • We all need to be aware of how and where to shut off our water, electricity, and gas lines.
  • We also need to know where to shut off our water inside our homes. Of course, we would never shut off gas unless we can smell gas or fire is coming our way, common sense needs to be used. I recommend everyone get the tool “On Duty” for shutting off gas lines, water lines, etc. It is a 4 in 1 tool. This is it: On-Duty Emergency Gas & Water Shutoff 4-n-1 Tool for Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Fires, Floods, Disasters and Emergencies

Mark’s CERT Bag Has Medical Supplies

Mark’s ( my hubby) CERT bag has all the medical supplies we will need until help arrives. if it arrives. I know of two nurses and one doctor in our neighborhood. Of course, I don’t know everyone that lives in the subdivision. The items shown below are in my bag:

Whats In Your C.E.R.T. Bag

  • Nitrile gloves
  • N95 masks (you can never have enough of them)
  • BandAids
  • Yellow chalk
  • Yellow caution tape
  • Paint sticks for makeshift splints

Update on the bags. We took a suturing class by a doctor to show us how to suture deep and shallow cuts if we had to do it. We now have two suture sets included in our bags. I have added a stethoscope and several surgical scissors and bandages we might need.

  • Items like bleach will be critical if the sewer lines are broken.
  • We will need black bags for trash, body bags to tag or label with the name (if we know the name).
  • I was really disappointed with our HOA where I live after I asked for a list of the families that lived there. I understand the privacy stuff, but I can only help those people who I know.
  • I can’t waste any time on homes that appear empty when I know people live in certain houses.
  • I wanted the list so I could ask people for their next of kin. I know my kids would want to know I was okay if I was hurt and unable to communicate.

Basics of CERT

This information is taken out of my Citizens Corp-CERT Participant Manual, I just modified the script to personalize it more.

CERT-Fire Safety

1. You basically gather facts regarding the disaster, what has happened, and how many people are involved.

2. Assess and communicate the damage, walk around the area, and determine what has happened to a house or commercial building you are assessing.

3. Consider probabilities, what is likely going to happen now, or may happen through cascading events.

4. Assess your own situation: are you in immediate danger? Can you handle this situation or have the equipment that you need?

5. Establish priorities, are lives at risk? Can you help? Remember, life safety is the first priority.

6. Make decisions, base your decisions on the answers to steps 1 through 3. Establish priorities.

7. Develop plans of action, develop a plan that will help you accomplish the priorities, whether verbal, or if more complex, write them down.

Fire Extinguishers

In the CERT class, we all learned how to have a buddy with us to assist in putting out a fire. I must tell you those fire hoses are very very heavy. That was probably the most exciting thing I learned during our training. You sweep the hose to put out the fire.

Here are some interesting facts about regular fire extinguishers we have at home, in the garage, or the car. All fire extinguishers are labeled with certain labels to identify which classification of fuel the extinguisher will be effective:

1. Class A Fires: Ordinary combustibles like paper, cloth, wood, rubber, and many plastics.

2. Class B Fires: Flammable liquids like oil, and gasoline, charcoal lighter, kerosene.

3. Class C Fires: Energized electrical equipment like wiring or motors. Once the electricity to those is turned off they become a Class A.

4. Class D Fires: Combustible metals like aluminum, magnesium, or titanium.

So when you purchase a fire extinguisher it is extremely important to identify the type of fuel you suspect would be most common so you can select the correct extinguisher you think may be best for your personal situation to do the job correctly.

Triage

One of the more interesting parts of the CERT class dealt with the term triage, which is a term that means to”sort.”  Triage isn’t always necessary, but during triage, the victims of a disaster are evaluated, then sorted by the urgency of the treatment needed, and then set up for immediate or delayed treatment.

Triage is used extensively in military maneuvers and has been shown to be very effective in situations where:

  • There are many more victims than rescuers.
  • There are limited resources.
  • Time is critical.

You use triage as soon as possible after victims are located or rescued. During triage, victims’ conditions are evaluated and they are prioritized and labeled (tagged) into at least three categories:

* Immediate (I): The victim has life-threatening injuries like blocked airway, heavy bleeding, or shock, that demand immediate attention to save their life.  There is an urgent need for rapid, life-saving treatment.  You can use two approaches to tag the victim: the first would be to put some red tape on the victim, the other would be to write an “I” on the victim with some kind of marker. I guess another option would be to attach the red tape and then mark the tape with the “I”, then there wouldn’t be any question.

Delayed (D): In this case, the injuries don’t jeopardize the victim’s life.  The victim may require professional care, but treatment can be delayed. Here you tag with yellow tape and/or mark them with a “D”.

Dead (DEAD): Here you note that there is no respiration after two attempts to open the airway. Because CPR is a one-on-one type of care and is so labor-intensive, CPR is not performed when there are many more victims than there are rescuers and you need your people resources applied to those who can survive the disaster. This is where you use the black tag.

One other tag to consider is a green tag that identifies the individual as in reasonably good/ok condition and not needing care.

The CERT program has the goal to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  The process may seem to be a little arbitrary, but it isn’t a heartless exercise, you really are trying to help those needing the most assistance in the fastest manner possible.

The victims are then taken to the designated medical treatment area (immediate care, delayed care, or morgue). If you’ve had time to label the treatment areas with “I”, “D” or “Morgue” you can use any spontaneous volunteers or the less injured to help move the victims to these areas as appropriate.

There are special procedures to follow when conducting triage as listed below:

Step 1: Stop, Look, Listen, and Think. Before you start, stop, and size up the situation by looking around and listening to observe and listen to what is going on around you and the victims. THINK about YOUR safety, capability, and limitations, and decide if you will approach the situation, and if so, how you’ll perform what is necessary.

Step 2: Conduct Voice Triage. Begin your efforts by calling out as follows: “Emergency Response Team. If you can walk, come to the sound of my voice.” If there are survivors who are ambulatory, instruct them to stay at a designated location and continue with your triage process. There may be victims present who can provide useful information about the disaster at hand, unique issues about the location or building involved, and specific information about other possible victims who can’t be immediately observed.

Step 3: Start Where You Stand and Follow a Systematic Route. Start with the closest victims and work outward in a systematic approach to cover the area as quickly and effectively as possible.

Step 4: Evaluate Each Victim and Tag them. As mentioned above, “I” = immediate, “D” = delayed, or “DEAD”. Remember to include those who may be walking around but are still wounded/injured.

* Step 5: Treat “I” Victims Immediately. Initiate airway management, bleeding control, and treatment for shock for the “I” victims.

Step 6: Be Sure to Document the Triage Results. Outline how resources were deployed, detail the victims’ locations, and record how many casualties were assisted under each category of severity.

Although we are all concerned about the victims in a disaster situation, the rescuer’s safety is most important during triage. Proper protective equipment is vital so you don’t endanger your own health.  If you get hurt your ability to help others is limited. If you come in direct contact with other’s blood there may be long-term consequences. Take proper precautions!

Finally, consider helping to organize a CERT class in your neighborhood so all interested can benefit from the great training being offered.  Check with your local police or fire department to see what it would take to put the CERT class together, then get busy and promote the class to everyone you can.  It will be worth your efforts. The CERT book alone is worth the price of the class, and the CERT backpack is a bonus. We learned a lot in the awesome class!

What is a Community Emergency Response Team?

According to Ready.gov “The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks.”

How to Get CERT Trained

If you want to get trained in CERT, then you will need to complete the classroom training that is offered by a local government agency. Sometimes the police or fire department will offer classes.

How to Get FEMA Certified

If you want to take it a step further and get FEMA certified, then you will need to contact the Independent Study Program’s Customer Support Center at (301) 447-1200 or independent.study@fema.dhs.gov.

FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency.

You might want to go check out  “The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997”: The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 signed by President Clinton(https://www.npccny.org/info/gti2.htm).

First Aid Kit by Linda

Final Word

This is one more way to be prepared for the unexpected. Please look into getting CERT Certified, you will be glad you did. May God bless this world, Linda

19 thoughts on “How To Get Started With CERT in Your Community

  • June 6, 2020 at 7:13 am
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    Good article. You did a similar one in November of 2018 that was titled” How To Get Started With CERT To Help Your Community “

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    • June 6, 2020 at 9:25 am
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      Hi Karl, I changed the title and updated the post so other readers can maybe get started on the CERT. Thanks, Karl, Linda

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      • June 6, 2020 at 9:28 am
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        I just thought I would point out the obvious. I do things like that. I was a member of CERT a long time ago, but they formed cliques based on where they lived. I didn’t live near any of them and dropped out. I did join the Public Safety committee in Taylorsville however and was part of the Emergency Response sub-group of the committee.

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        • June 6, 2020 at 10:06 am
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          Hi Karl, Thanks for letting us know about the Public Safety Committee, and the Emergency Response subgroup. I love hearing about other groups that do similar things as CERT. Thank you so much, Linda

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          • June 6, 2020 at 10:19 am
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            Hi Linda, another item you may want to discuss with your readers is Amateur (Ham) Radio. I’m a ham operator and back when I lived in the Salt Lake valley, I was a member of ARES (Amateur Radio Services) which is run by the ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League). ARES groups coordinate with municipalities to provide radio communications during emergencies. What most people don’t realize is that public service radio communications (police, fire, EMS, etc.) has a limited capacity and can become overloaded quite quickly during an emergency. That’s where ham radio comes into play.

            Anyway, keep up with your posts. They are very informative. I go back to your book, Prepare Your Family for Survival, quite often.

          • June 6, 2020 at 10:29 am
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            Hi Karl, I’m so glad you mentioned the Amateur (Ham) radio. Yes, indeed I need to write a post about it and get my license. I have had the book for years, I just need to do it, my friend, thanks again for the reminder. I’m on it. Thank you, thank you, Linda

  • June 6, 2020 at 8:46 am
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    Good article. It takes a ton of folks working together in major disasters. Having been through numerous tornados including 2 F5s that change the landscape just getting water and gas turned off was a chore that took many to accomplish.
    Being in public service and/or usually in the direct effected zone I’m unable to do this but certainly appreciate all that come to help. It doesn’t go unnoticed.

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    • June 6, 2020 at 9:27 am
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      Hi Matt, this is why I republished this post with some new information. We really need a group effort to get through any disaster. If 5-10 more people (preferably more, but we’ll take what we can get) would learn some of the CERT skills it will take the pressure off of everyone. We must be able to help one another. You are so right, Linda

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    • June 6, 2020 at 9:28 am
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      Hi Lillace, you are so kind with your words, thank you. I work hard to teach the world to be prepared one day at a time. Thanks again, Linda

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  • June 6, 2020 at 9:08 am
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    We took the CERT class last year. I was quite upfront with the police officer who helped run the program, I told him I could not do triage, that I could not make decisions on who needed immediately care might not be someone else’s. That the idea of choosing made me hesitate. He said I could keep records of who went where, when help came. Not everyone has to do first aid, in an emergency there is plenty to do. They can balance your skill set with what is needed. Last night we had a bad windstorm in our area, one of our neighbors hangar was destroyed, the roof blew off and two walls blew out, thank G-d no one was hurt. Several neighbor went to help him salvage what he could. Other neighbors did nothing just came to watch. I was glad that he knew to call my husband and relatives first for help.

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    • June 6, 2020 at 9:40 am
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      HI Linda, my biggest fear is where I live. It’s a neighborhood with houses but very few are prepared. My husband and I are prepared to take charge if it comes to that. We have very few leaders that I know in the neighborhood that could handle any disaster. I have tried to set up classes for FREE to get people involved but there is no interest. It seems as those our neighbors think the government will swoop in and take care of everyone. That will not be the case. It’s impossible for them to “take care of us”. We will be on our own for days, weeks, and possibly months. If everyone would take the CERT class they would learn why we must be able to take care of ourselves. Hopefully, someone in your neighborhood has some first aid skills. The doctors and nurses will be nowhere to be found because they will be needed at the hospital or makes-shift hospitals. God bless this world, Linda

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      • June 6, 2020 at 11:58 am
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        We have two retired nurses in our area. One doctor who lives here part time. No one wants to learn but they expect to be taken care of. I’ve mentioned to friends if there was a disaster no FEMA would swoop in to help our tiny rural community, they would be in the big cities getting news coverage. As you experienced; no interest.

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  • June 6, 2020 at 11:09 am
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    Hi Linda, As an RN, who still works from home, I’m interested in joining a CERT class. Can you please let me know the first place I should call to find out about them?
    Thanks so much

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    • June 6, 2020 at 4:36 pm
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      Hi Suzanne, It all depends on where you live. Fema, your health department or fire department may know who is teaching them. This is a link that may help. With COVID, it may be delayed. Your skills as a nurse will be needed even more than CERT, you will be a gift to your neighborhood, truly. Linda

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  • June 6, 2020 at 11:17 am
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    Great post as always, Linda.
    I am not Cert trained and probably won’t be due to some physical limitations. BUT I have tried to teach my neighbors about getting prepared – a long lost cause for the last 4 years!

    When this pandemic and subsequent lock-down occurred, most of my neighbors were prepared for 3-4 days at most. Many scrambled to get supplies and food and found that in some areas of “need” or “want” they were too late. Now I am hearing them whine about the prices going up (well I do as well but I have a plan in place which they don’t). I cannot help them!

    The thing that concerns me the most is that these neighbors are figuring that the local authorities will help them out! I have not been able to convince them otherwise. So, while I will help out where and when I can, I am still limited to what I can do for them. There are many (senior community) who have to use mobility aids: walkers, canes, scooters, wheel chairs. Some of them live on the 2nd and 3rd floors. My main concern there is that if the elevators are out, they will not be able to get out on their own – well, those with walkers and canes will with some assistance but scooters and wheel chairs, not likely. I will not be able to help those who cannot manage pretty much on their own. It is frightening to say the least.

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    • June 6, 2020 at 4:42 pm
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      Hi Leanne, it’s hard because we can only do so much for those who are not realizing the need to be prepared. I am done trying to convince them. They think others will provide for them. They will be in shock, to say the least. I would worry about those people on the second and third floors. Hopefully, they will have enough warning to get down those stairs if the power goes out. YIKES! I sleep at night knowing I have everything I need right now. May God bless our neighbors, Leanne! Linda

      Reply
  • June 8, 2020 at 11:23 am
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    I once called to take a CERT class. I don’t recall what the name stood for as I have seen different things such as Citizens Emergency Response Team, Certified Emergency Response Team and even Certified Emergency Response Training. The ONLY thing that remains the same is the word “emergency”.

    Anyway, I called the listed fire department and heard nothing back from them. I did mention that for me it would be hard to wear a suit or to deal with extreme heat, but I got no response on that. The person took my number and that was it.

    I would like to mention that FEMA does offer free brochures and materials on how to prepare for various emergencies and also materials to study for their classes or tests. So, if one wants to go it alone, maybe start a group and/or can’t find any training available or just wants all this free information to learn more, it’s available. And many prepper sites have manuals and guides such as how to survive nuclear war. It was by reading those books that I got into preparedness and different areas of survival.

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    • June 8, 2020 at 3:19 pm
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      Hi Frank, that’s too bad no one got back to you. Mark and I contacted the local CERT group and signed up through emails. I’m glad you found other ways to be prepared. Linda

      Reply

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