Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services. Factors such as number of victims, communication failures and road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect at a moment’s notice through 911. People will have to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate life saving and life sustaining needs.
One also expects that under these kinds of conditions, family members,, fellow employees and neighbors will spontaneously try to help each other. This was the case following the Mexico City earthquake where untrained, spontaneous volunteers saved 800 people. However, 100 people lost their lives while attempting to save others. This is a high price to pay and is preventable through training.
If we can predict that emergency services will not meet immediate needs following a major disaster, especially if there is no warning, as in an earthquake, and people will spontaneously volunteer, what can we do to prepare citizens for this eventuality.
The answer is locally-controlled and coordinated CERT organizations. The Community Emergency Response Team provides support to local 911 agencies in a myriad of ways, from initial search, rescue and extrication and providing first aid to providing firefighter and rescuer rehab, coordinating resources and providing aid and comfort to victims after a disaster.
What will I learn through CERT?
People with CERT training will come away with the basic skills they will need to respond to their community’s immediate needs in the aftermath of a disaster, when emergency services are not immediately available. You will be able to identify types of hazards that are most likely to affect your home, workplace and neighborhood and take steps to prepare yourself and your family for a disaster.
You will work as a team to apply basic fire suppression strategies and safety measures to extinguish a pan fire. You will learn techniques for opening airways, controlling excessive bleeding, treat various injuries and learn to apply splints to suspected fractures and sprains. You will conduct triage under simulated disaster conditions, set up treatment areas and perform head-to-toe patient assessments and treat for shock. You will identify planning and size-up requirements for potential search and rescue situations and learn techniques for searching structures, debris removal and victim extrication. You will be able to describe ways to protect rescuers during search and rescue operations and describe the post-disaster emotional environment. You will also learn how to relieve your own stressors and those of disaster survivors. Lastly, you will be able to document completely according to CERT requirements.
What kind of time commitment is involved?
The Cass County CERT members will meet regularly. The initial training session is one Friday evening plus a Saturday and Sunday. Subsequent training sessions will be 2-3 hours long and held on one Saturday every other month. The basic training course is 20 hours long.
After the initial training session, you will be enrolled as a member of CERT and able to help, if able, the Sarpy/Cass Department of Public Health in organizing and registering people for flu shot clinics, blood drives, etc. If disaster strikes prior to the completion of the basic training course, your limited training will enable you to provide support to fire and rescue by organizing and delivering supplies to staging areas, providing emotional comfort to victims, ensuring trained personnel are well-hydrated and rested and other peripheral responsibilities out of harm’s way.
Who can take CERT training?
Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to register for Cass County CERT. You don’t have to have any special skills or knowledge, just a desire to learn how to help others. Community organizations, communities of faith, school staff and workplace employees are encouraged to join. CERT skills are useful in disaster and every day life events. If you are already a member of a volunteer fire department in our area, we encourage you NOT to join as you will already be committed to responding with your department in event of emergency or disaster, where your specialized skills will be utilized.
If you are concerned about your age or have a physical disability, we still have plenty of ways for you to be involved and help. Following a disaster, CERT members are needed for documentation, comforting others, logistics, etc. Non-disaster-related team activities may include keeping databases, developing a website, writing a newsletter, planning activities, helping with special events and organizing exercises and activities. CERT educates all participants about local hazards and trains them in skills that are useful during disaster and life’s every day emergencies. If you have a concern about performing a skill, such as lifting, just let the instructor know. You can learn from watching and, if that skill is needed in the future, you can at least be a resource for untrained individuals.
This CERT Program is brought to you as a joint venture between the Cass County Emergency Management Agency and the Sarpy/Cass Department of Health and Wellness.
People who have taken the CERT training are better prepared to respond and cope with the aftermath of a disaster. Trained individuals and teams are ready to:
- Provide immediate assistance to victims in their neighborhood.
- Organize spontaneous, untrained volunteers to provide needed services.
- Collect disaster intelligence to assist professional responders who are trying to distribute limited resources.