CERT program graduates volunteers
December 08, 2003
The City of Joplin held a graduation reception for 14 volunteers who had recently completed the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. This program is designed to help communities prepare for effective disaster response through training and preplanning with a core team of responsive citizens. The CERT team will be activated during a major emergency situation or catastrophe to assist and support the emergency responders in various roles.

“The CERT program serves to train people to be able to quickly respond in a major emergency situation and provide a vital service to the community,” said Mayor Richard Russell. “Joplin is a supportive community, and this is just another way that the citizens in this area can help their neighbor by educating themselves about specific needs in a disaster and how to manage those needs.”

Catastrophic events can severely restrict and overwhelm response resources, communications, transportation and utilities, which in turn leave many individuals and neighborhoods cut off from outside support. Disaster victims and communities may need to rely on their own resources during an initial 72-hour time period due to the time necessary for emergency response agencies to set up and prepare an organized effort as they deal with damaged roads and disrupted communications systems restricting their access into critically affected areas. CERT teams can provide critical services by immediately activating to offer necessary resources such as food, water, first aid, and shelter to the victims.

The Joplin CERT team is the first one to be formed in this area. Currently, there are 70 programs in the state that are offering CERT training, but not all offer the team concept.

The CERT training program consisted of eight basic self-help and mutual-aid emergency functions training sessions. Topics included: Emergency Preparedness; Fire Suppression; Utility Control; Disaster Medical Operations; Light Search and Rescue; Team Organization; and CERT Teams and Terrorism. Trained emergency personnel, including firefighters and emergency medical services personnel taught the classes.

“These trained CERT members are an asset to the community,” said Judy Johnson, director of the Joplin and Jasper County Emergency Management. “They have been trained to be self-reliant for a short time, assessing their environment as well as the needs of others in their immediate area, and providing the necessary assistance. It is teaching them some basic skills that they can use to help victims in a crisis situation.”

The CERT team concept was initiated locally following President Bush’s volunteer initiative in the post 9-11 period, and was implemented following the May 4, 2003 tornado disaster that struck neighboring cities in Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas. It is an initiative of the Joplin Fire Department to work with the community and helps provide education to the residents.

Funds for this program are being provided under a grant from the State Emergency Management Emergency Response Team Program. The goal of the program is to develop teams for use in both Joplin and Carthage.

A new class will be forming at the end of January 2004. If interested, contact the CERT program at the Joplin and Jasper County Emergency Management office, (417) 623-5858 for an application.

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