Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Baker’s Dozen ™ Hints - Tasks for a Community Emergency Response Team

Every community should have volunteer, informal groups that are prepared to respond to help neighbors and deal with disasters that threaten the community. There are many tasks that can be done by a CERT, and often a community should specialize and have several teams to deal with different situations. In many cases, these teams will support other community resources, like the volunteer fire department, sheriff’s office or posse, ambulance service, or homeowners’ association. In other cases, they must function on their own, either because the situation is not of a scale to trigger those, or because the disaster is so serious that the normal emergency response resources are completely swamped either locally or someplace else. Here are some of the common tasks that a CERT in the Western US might need to do:

1. Assist in the evacuation of community members with handicaps, elderly, with small children, or other unique situations.

2. Coordinate for emergency transportation for people, food, water, medicine, etc.

3. Provide for purification of water in case of disruption or contamination of the water supply.

4. Provide for emergency sanitation in case of failure of normal sanitation facilities.

5. Fighting small wildfires.

6. Searching for lost children or elderly.

7. Delivering emergency messages door-to-door.

8. Providing food and water for emergency response personnel or from people evacuated from their homes.

9. Providing supplies and assistance for shelters in community centers, church buildings, or other locations for refugees.

10. Assist other first-responders with crowd and traffic control.

11. Provide a place where people in the community can come to get questions answered, leave messages, donate assistance and materials, and otherwise help.

12. Provide a forum for helping people plan individually for disasters, distributing information, sharing ideas, and other actions BEFORE an emergency.

13. Recruit people to form other community emergency response teams.

These are just a few of the many tasks that a CERT, often only four or five people, can perform to help a community pull together in case of disaster, whether we are talking a wildfire, a blizzard, windstorm, power outage, influx of refugees, hazmat incident, or other emergency. Even preparation and cooperation on a completely voluntary and small scale can save lives and communities.

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