Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) are forming right now in Seneca County. If you are thinking about what you can do to help, this is a great opportunity to get involved. No community is really prepared until every individual, family, and household takes personal responsibility for preparedness. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community. People who go through CERT training have a better understanding of the potential threats to their home, workplace and community and can take the right steps to lessen the effects of these hazards on themselves, their homes or workplace. If a disaster happens that overwhelms local response capability, CERT members can apply the training learned in the classroom and during exercises to give critical support to their family, loved ones, neighbors or associates in their immediate area until help arrives. When help does arrive, CERTs provide useful information to responders and support their efforts, as directed, at the disaster site. CERT members can also assist with non-emergency projects that improve the safety of the community. CERTs have been used to distribute and/or install smoke alarms, replace smoke alarm batteries in the home of elderly, distribute disaster education material, provide services at special events, such as parades, sporting events, concerts and more.Who can take the training?Naturals for the training are individuals, neighborhood watch, community organizations, communities of faith, school staff, workplace employees, scouting organization and other groups that come together regularly for a common purpose. CERT skills are useful in disaster and everyday life events.Why take the CERT training?Local government prepares for everyday emergencies. However, there can be an emergency or disaster that can overwhelm the community’s immediate response capability. While adjacent jurisdictions, State and Federal resources can activate to help, there may be a delay for them getting to those who need them. The primary reason for CERT training is to give people the decision-making, organizational, and practical skills to offer immediate assistance to family members, neighbors, and associates while waiting for help. While people will respond to others in need without the training, the goal of the CERT program is to help people do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger. The best source of help in an emergency or disaster is the paid or volunteer professional responder. But, if they are not available to address immediate life-saving needs or to protect property, CERT members can help. CERTs are not intended to replace a community’s response capability, but rather, to serve as an important supplement to it. CERT members must keep their safety in mind as their first priority. CERT volunteers must know their capabilities and the limitations of their training and equipment and work within those limitations. CERTs do NOT suppress large fires, enter structures that they consider heavily damaged and dangerous (e.g., leaning or moved from foundation), perform hazardous materials cleanup or respond to incidents involving radiological, chemical, or biological agents, perform medical, fire, or search and rescue operations beyond their level of training, or activate or deploy unless called for in their procedures. CERTs are considered “Good Samaritans” and covered under the Volunteer Protection Act. CERT volunteers do not have any authority beyond serving as “Good Samaritan” when helping others. When deployed appropriately, however, CERTs can complement and enhance first-response capability in neighborhoods and workplaces by ensuring the safety of themselves and their families working outward to the neighborhood or office and beyond until first responders arrive. CERTs can then assist first-response personnel as directed.If you are interested in taking CERT training, we will be starting a class soon. You will need to notify the Seneca County Emergency Management Office at 315-539-1757 to get a registration form. Join the others in the community that have taken the first step to being prepared for a disaster.