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CERT: Everyday People Saving Everyday People

October 10, 2019

Ever think about what occurs behind the curtain of public safety or the people who safeguard us when danger is imposed? When a fire, natural disaster, or any emergency occurs, we pick up our phones, dial 911 and — poof! — the magic dragons appear and save us from imminent danger.

Truthfully, when large-scale disasters occur you see first responders and often everyday citizens responding. When hundreds or thousands of people are affected, our first responders would be overwhelmed if community members didn’t support. In the midst of a disaster, it’s everyone’s responsibility to respond. We need our first responders, but they also need us.

There’s a growing force behind first responders that most of us don’t see. They are uniformed in green, yellow and orange reflective gear; directing traffic, giving out bottled water and reassuring whoever they are helping that all will be okay. They are Certified Emergency Response Teams (CERT), volunteering their time to assist our fire, police and paramedics during emergency and non-emergency events.

CERT training

Last month, I attended the Florida CERT Conference and was an amazing introduction into the CERT world. They volunteer to go through a very rigorous training process that enables them to respond to just about any emergency you can imagine. The training courses range from basic first aid to CPR to emergency triage skills. They are taught how to put out small fires or safely remove others from dangerous situations before and after first responders are called. Often, they are the first to arrive since they can literally be your next door neighbor or the bagger at your local grocery store. It’s really amazing what humans do to support each other in a time of need.

In order to become a CERT volunteer, you must enroll in preparation classes and then apply to be accepted into a CERT-sponsored team. You also have to agree to take refresher courses annually to maintain your certification. The basic required classes are below, but there are many new classes and other modalities that CERT teams can specialize in as their teams grow.

According to The Prepared, the official 20-hour course is broken into sections:

Preparedness: 2.5 hours. Includes specific disaster risks most relevant to your local community.

Fire safety and suppression: 2.5 hours. How to identify hazardous materials, put out a small fire, and fire gear.

Disaster Medical Operations: 5 hours. Triage and assessment, bleeding control, CPR-like airway control. Part first aid, part logistics of emergency medicine.

Search and Rescue: 2.5 hours. How to sweep areas, assess structural damage, and rescue techniques.

CERT Organization: 1.5 hours. The logistics of emergencies, Incident Management System, local team organization, and communications.

Psychology: 1 hour. How to help victims and first responders / yourself.

Terrorism: 2.5 hours. How to identify what kind of attack has occurred (chemical, nuclear, etc.).

Review and Simulation: 2.5 hours. Written exam followed by a practical simulation test.

According to FEMA, there are currently 2,700 CERT teams and over 600,000 volunteers who have been trained and stand ready to respond when needed. Imagine that — a silent army of everyday people ready to save lives. Amazing, I know.

CERT fire training

While I’m mind-blown at their unselfish commitment to their communities and their ability to help us in our worst moments, I can’t help but think: What else could we be doing to support our first responders? Well, they have already thought of that and are creating Teen CERT’s to ensure the legacy of CERT is preserved and high school and junior high school students have this same information to support their peers at sporting events, school dances, and in school hallways.

The only thing that could make this sweeter is making sure our CERTs have all the resources and tools they need to respond, which can be challenging. They are volunteers, which means they have no budget and often very little resources to respond to emergencies. Most CERT volunteers have fundraisers to support their teams, which is quite admirable of them considering they are already volunteering and sometimes paying for certification classes.

At Spatial Networks, we understand and support CERT teams. That’s why we created Fulcrum Community, a short-term, no-cost data-collection platform that enables anyone to collect and share information in real time. We know how difficult it is for these teams to collect critical information in the field, particularly during a full-fledged disaster. Through Fulcrum Community, CERTs can now complete their required FEMA and emergency-management forms using cell phones. It’s easy, quick and a lot more organized than collecting information with clip boards and then later translating that information into the required reports.

As more CERT teams join Fulcrum Community, we’re building an arsenal of required forms used in the field that can be quickly downloaded and edited to accommodate the needs of the team. If we don’t have the specific form you’re searching for, it’s easy to add or create the form with our drag-and-drop app builder. Fulcrum also have several other great features that allow you to download pictures, videos, and other information needed while in the field.

Since we know that CERT teams also need to communicate with their sponsor teams (police, fire, EMTs) we’re also FirstNet Listed and ready to provide our secured premium version of Fulcrum to those teams. This is key and assures that all emergency team members are able to communicate in real time, keeping everyone on your team safe and updated.

We may not wear the yellow, green, or orange reflective gear, but consider us part of the team.

Fulcrum is a data collection platform that enables organizations to reduce costs, access critical data in real time, and improve decision making at every level. With Fulcrum, you can create custom apps using our simple drag-and-drop builder to turn your paper documents into digital forms that your field teams can quickly complete on mobile devices.