How did CERT start?
In Southern Nevada CERT training began in 1999. The first course was held in Sun City Summerlin and graduated 12 students. We offer between 18-and 20 courses each year throughout Southern Nevada at Community Centers, Churches, and other facilities provided by the groups sponsoring a course. If your group consists of 15-32 individuals we can tailor a course specifically for it.
The Community Emergency Response Team concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Further, it confirmed the need for training civilians to meet their immediate needs. As a result, the LAFD created the Disaster Preparedness Division with the purpose of training citizens and private and government employees.
The training program that LAFD initiated makes good sense and furthers the process of citizens understanding their responsibility in preparing for disaster. It also increases their ability to safely help themselves, their family and their neighbors. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognizes the importance of preparing citizens. The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and the National Fire Academy adopted and expanded the CERT materials believing them applicable to all hazards.
The CERT course will benefit any citizen who takes it. This individual will be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster. Additionally, if a community wants to supplement its response capability after a disaster, civilians can be recruited and trained as neighborhood, business, and government teams that, in essence, will be auxiliary responders. These groups can provide immediate assistance to victims in their area, organize spontaneous volunteers who have not had the training, and collect disaster intelligence that will assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster. Since 1993 when this training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 States and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training.
Following a major disaster, professional-first responders who provide fire, police and medical services may 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 should government do to prepare citizens?
First, present citizens the facts about what to expect following a major disaster in terms of immediate services. Second, communicate the message about their responsibility for mitigation and preparedness. Third, train them – in needed life-saving skills – with emphasis on decision-making skills, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Fourth, organize teams so that trained citizens are an extension of first responder services offering immediate help to victims until professional services arrive.
In Southern Nevada, Clark, Esmeralda, Lincoln and Parts of Nye Counties, the City of Las Vegas, Office of Emergency Management provides training for and coordinates the CERT program. CERT training includes disaster preparedness, disaster fire suppression, basic disaster medical operations, and light search and rescue operations.
How do I join?
The CERT course is delivered in the community by a team of first responders who have the requisite knowledge and skills to instruct the sessions. The CERT training for community groups is usually delivered in 2 ½ to 3 hour sessions, one evening a week over a six (6) or eight (8) week period.
When participants have completed this training, with their permission, they are entered into a database of disaster volunteers that may be notified in case of a disaster or to participate in drills held throughout the county by responding agencies. CERT members are notified by EMAIL.
To register for a course, please visit the CERT Courses page. Click “Register” for the corresponding course number, complete the registration form and click submit. If there is space available you will be registered automatically. If the course is no longer available you will receive an email, asking you to select another course.
What are the course fees?
The course is free. The Community Emergency Response Team Program is sponsored through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.