CERT is a recognized component of the National Emergency Response Framework under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and is required to be chartered through, and sponsored by, the local Office of Emergency Management, Law Enforcement, Fire Service, or Local Emergency Planning Committee. CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. In April of 2014 the County Commissioners of Wood County, West Virginia, decided in their infinite “wisdom” that it is in the best interest of their constituents to avoid the imagined possible “liability” of permitting well-trained and nationally-accredited citizen volunteers to assist their friends and neighbors in the event of a disaster during which local first responders have become overwhelmed (as they were during the Derecho and Super Storm Sandy of 2012). Accordingly, the Commissioners have decided they will not support the national CERT program in Wood County. The program has therefore been suspended in Wood County until a more reasonable-minded government official can be located to support the program. Wood County is now one of the few counties in the state of West Virginia that does not have a viable CERT program to help assist its citizens in the event of a community disaster.
HOW DID CERT START?
The idea to train volunteers from the community to assist emergency service personnel during large natural disasters began. In February of 1985, a group of Los Angeles City officials went to Japan to study its extensive earthquake preparedness plans. The group encountered an extremely homogenous society that had taken extensive steps to train entire neighborhoods in one aspect of alleviating the potential devastation that would follow a major earthquake. These single-function neighborhood teams were trained in either fire suppression, light search and rescue operations, first aid, or evacuation.
In September of 1985, a Los Angeles City investigation team was sent to Mexico City following an earthquake there that registered a magnitude 8.1 on the Richter scale and killed more than 10,000 people and injured more than 30,000. Mexico City had no training program for citizens prior to the disaster. However, large groups of volunteers organized themselves and performed light search and rescue operations. Volunteers are credited with more than 800 successful rescues; unfortunately, more than 100 of these untrained volunteers died during the 15-day rescue operation.
The lessons learned in Mexico City strongly indicated that a plan to train volunteers to help themselves and others, and become an adjunct to government response, was needed as an essential part of overall preparedness, survival, and recovery.
The City of Los Angeles Fire Department developed a pilot program to train a group of leaders in a neighborhood watch organization. A concept developed involving multi-functional volunteer response teams with the ability to perform basic fire suppression, light search and rescue, and first aid. This first team of 30 people completed training in early 1986 and proved that the concept was viable through various drills, demonstrations, and exercises. Expansion of the program, however, was not feasible due to limited City resources, until an event occurred in 1987 that impacted the entire area.
On October 1, 1987, the Whittier Narrows earthquake vividly underscored the threat of an area-wide major disaster, and demonstrated the need to expedite the training of civilians to prepare for earthquakes and other emergencies. Following the Whittier Narrows earthquake, the City of Los Angeles took an aggressive role in protecting the citizens of Los Angeles by creating the Disaster Preparedness Division (now the Disaster Preparedness Section) within the Los Angeles Fire Department. Their objectives included:
- Educate and train the public and government sectors in
- Research, evaluate, and disseminate disaster information
- Develop, train, and maintain a network of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs).
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decided to make the concept and program available to communities nationwide. The Emergency Management Institute (EMI), in cooperation with the LAFD, expanded the CERT materials to make them applicable to all hazards.
In January 2002, CERT became part of the Citizen Corps, a unifying structure to link a variety of related volunteer activities to expand a community's resources for crime prevention and emergency response.
By 2012, CERT programs were offered in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and six foreign countries.
Just by way of reference, the Los Angeles Fire Department CERT program has been successfully operating since 1986 with over 30,000 active citizen volunteer members. For additional information about CERT, visit FEMA.gov.
For contact information on chartered CERT programs in West Virginia GO HERE.
1. Private companies, schools, and other organizations may sponsor extremely-limited CERT programs to provide in-house emergency services only. For example, a company or school may use the CERT program to train their in-house or on-campus emergency response personnel. These personnel can only function on the sponsor’s property or within the scope of the sponsor’s immediate area of responsibility. [RETURN]
file:///D:/Documents/My Web Sites/WoodCountyCERT/default.html
Last saved Thursday November 05, 2015 01:42 PM -0500
Copyright © 2012-2016 R. L. Sawyer, who alone is responsible for the content of this site. All Rights Reserved.
This site is presented on behalf of those citizens of Wood County, West Virginia, who believe that our county deserves
to have a fully-functional CERT program sponsored by our county government. Please “Like” our Facebook page.