For around 2 years now, I’ve been involved with my local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program. I took the initial training a little over 2 years ago, and since they I’ve been to several refresher classes and exercises, and joined the Steering Committee as the newsletter editor. For those not familiar with CERT, it’s a nation-wide program that teaches people how to prepare for disasters, and how they can help themselves, their families, and their neighborhoods in times of disaster or emergency. Our local program in Hillsboro is open to anyone who lives or works in Western Washington County, and involves 24 hours of training (3 hours, one night a week for 8 weeks). The training includes disaster medical training, light search & rescue, team organization, and other important preparedness skills.
This past weekend I got a chance to go to the Western Territorial Citizens Corps Conference in beautiful Bozeman, Montana. It was a great conference, and I learned a lot about the overall organization that is the Citizens Corps, which was really worthwhile. I also got a chance to see a bit of Bozeman, which I really enjoyed. What a gorgeous town! We also got a chance to hit the Museum of the Rockies, which has a truly amazing collection, including some of the best dinosaur exhibits I’ve seen.
Citizens Corps is the (relatively) new umbrella organization under which the national CERT program is housed, along with four other “partner” programs.
All of these organizations provide opportunities for the average citizen to volunteer some of their time to better prepare themselves and their communities for disasters and emergencies, as well helping out and saving a lot of money for our frontline first responders. For examples, volunteers for the Fire Corps can do things like help cook at fire stations, or do paperwork which frees up firefighters for the work they are best qualified to do.
Check out the websites and find out how you can help. It’s every American’s responsibility to be prepared. And if anyone has questions about the CERT program, I’d be happy to answer them.