Written by: In the Community

How To Start a Community Emergency Response Team

If you want to play a larger role in ensuring the safety of yourself and your neighbors, take the steps to start a community emergency response team.

How To Start a Community Emergency Response Team

In an increasingly uncertain world, the importance of community resilience and preparedness cannot be overstated. Natural disasters, health crises, and other emergencies can strike without warning, leaving communities vulnerable and underprepared. This is where a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) comes into play. A CERT provides a structured approach to disaster preparedness, ensuring that members of a community are not just passive bystanders but active participants in their own safety and well-being. Starting a CERT in your community is a powerful way to enhance local resilience that also presents an opportunity to foster stronger connections among neighbors. Learning how to start a community emergency response team is the first step to ensuring the safety of yourself and your neighbors.

Recruit and Train Your CERT Members

Assembling a team of dedicated individuals is the first crucial step in building a successful CERT. Start by spreading the word about your initiative throughout your community. Use local events, social media platforms, neighborhood meetings, and word of mouth to attract interested volunteers. Once you’ve assembled your team, training becomes key. Many resources, including online courses and local classes, are available to help with this training process. A well-trained CERT member is not only a valuable asset during emergencies but also a source of information and guidance for the rest of the community.

Gather the Necessary Supplies

Having the right supplies can make a significant difference during an emergency. Each CERT member should have a personal disaster response kit, which typically includes items like a hard hat, safety goggles, work gloves, a dust mask, a first aid kit, a flashlight, and a whistle. Coordinate with fire and rescue equipment suppliers to ensure your CERT is well-stocked and ready to handle any scenario. Carry out regular checks to ensure all equipment is in good condition and ready for use when needed.

Create an Effective Emergency Response Plan

An effective emergency response plan is the backbone of your CERT. This plan should outline the roles and responsibilities of each team member, evacuation routes, meeting points, and communication strategies. It should also include contingencies for different types of disasters your community may face. Regular drills and simulations based on this plan will help ensure every member of your team knows what to do when disaster strikes. A good plan is flexible and can adapt to changing circumstances—you should review the plan and update it regularly in response to feedback from drills and real events.

Collaborate With Local Emergency Services

Your CERT should not operate in isolation but should actively seek to collaborate with local emergency services. This is perhaps the most important part of starting a community emergency response team, as your volunteers will gain the most beneficial knowledge from speaking with professionals who frequently deal with emergency scenarios. Establishing connections with these professionals can provide valuable insights into their protocols and procedures and allow for a more coordinated response during emergencies. They can also offer additional training opportunities for your team members. Moreover, having a strong relationship with local emergency services ensures that your CERT efforts are integrated into the wider disaster preparedness and response framework in your area.

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Last modified: July 27, 2023