By Randi Roth
After a major disaster or incident, the community is rendered helpless and professional responders become overwhelmed with calls for help. Regardless of the cause for this disruption in service, the delay in reponse could be several minutes to several days. Through community preparedness and education, we can become a more resilient and better-equipped community.
There are many ways that a community can prepare and plan for disaster, but most jurisdictions have an Emergency Management department that specializes in community preparedness. Although it is the main function of these departments to plan for disaster, individuals also are responsible responsibility to protect themselves, their family, and property.
Disaster preparedness ranges from awareness and education about the dangers in our community to construction of a full-on tornado shelter in the backyard. While every community and family has different needs, most families can prepare for just about any hazard by storing extra water, food, supplies, and other items in a 72-hour kit, intended to keep a family alive for the first couple of days it might take for first responders to catch up to the demand for service.
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985. CERT training is inteded to educate citizens to prepare them for emergencies, and possibly render aid in their neighborhoods. Graduates of the CERT program are able to provide immediate care to victims in their area, organize spontaneous volunteers with no training, and collect disaster information to assist professional responders upon arrival. After graduation, CERT volunteers may opt for inclusion to the list of active volunteers available for assistance in disasters.
Just last year, the CERT volunteers helped Red Cross shelter setup in Tijeras, NM for the victims of the Dog Head Fire. Volunteers also helped with the large animal shelter organized to manage the mandatory evacuation of those areas. Between incidences, CERT volunteers help out with numerous community events such as Pork n Brew, Project Heart Start, department drills and exercises, 5k events, Celtic Festival, St. Baldrick’s, and many more.
To learn more about disaster preparedness and involvement in the community, Rio Rancho Fire & Rescue Department offers CERT training multiple times during the year. This training is open to all and is free of charge. The CERT course consists of 24 hours of training divided into blocks based on content. The course is taught by different instructors with real life experience in their fields of expertise. Each class is held in a classroom setting, and includes hands-on and discussion-based learning activities.
For more information on the CERT training and becoming a member of the CERT team, please contact
*Learn more about emergency kits at ready.gov