Tag: CERT meetings

Hey CERT Trainers!


A New Piece of Gear For Your Kit!

If you’re in charge of putting on neighborhood CERT meetings, you know what a challenge it is!

A good meeting pumps up the energy and attracts new members. A poor meeting – well, you can lose members overnight!

So searching for good meeting ideas goes on . . . and on.

Over the past 10 years, Joe and I have been either on the front lines or behind the scenes, planning meetings for our neighborhood group. That’s well over 100 meetings!

It recently occurred to me that buried in my computer is a treasure trove. I dug in, pulled together my notes, and wrote up some of the ideas for meetings that we’ve held successfully.

CERT Meeting Ideas, Emergency Plan Guide

From the trenches . . .!

Our best ideas have now been assembled into a 55 page ebook called CERT Meeting Ideas.

The ideas seem to have worked. We’ve had as many as 60 volunteer members in our community, and our teams have responded to five major emergencies (mostly construction related). We have received awards from the Mayor and local First Responders for our efforts.

What makes a good meeting?

Now, Joe and I are not professionally trained CERT instructors. But we know from business experience that good meetings have to have some valuable content, a delivery method that’s effective for your group, and, of course, a setting that works for both.

That’s what we’ve tried to put into every meeting.

Content is easy.

When it comes to emergency planning, there’s plenty of content. You can just page through the training manual and come up with stuff to learn more about on every page.

But we have learned, also from our business experience, that people resist being “taught.”

What they seem to want is to “experience” an activity so that it reinforces appropriate behavior in response to an emergency!

So it’s the delivery method that’s the bigger challenge.

Over our years of providing training, we have tried all kinds of methods, with these topping the list.

  • We have had guest speakers, and guest speakers with power point slide shows.
  • Neighbors have volunteered to get up and “show and tell” about a particular piece of emergency equipment.
  • We’ve watched videos featuring official CERT groups, professional industry association members and product manufacturers.
  • Getting outside onto the street, practicing finding and reporting on “emergencies,” is a lot of fun for active volunteers.
  • Kicking back in a social setting is also essential.

Finally, the setting has to work.

Our group has met in a variety of meeting rooms, in a temporary construction trailer, outside in a parking lot or on the street, and in people’s living rooms and driveways.

So, if you, like us, are looking for more ideas . . .

Based on discussions with some CERT alumni, and comments from online Facebook and LinkedIn groups, it seems that other trainers are searching, too.

If you’re responsible for planning meetings, I think you’ll like the detail. I list everything you’ll need and some places to find those speakers and that equipment. I describe how some activities were particularly well-received, and how some took some easing into!

The book isn’t free – but at $10 it’s close to free, and we will use the money to continue with more of our volunteer efforts. Find out more here.


Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


Whoops, sorry about that!


Post instead of Page

In the world of the internet and WordPress, a post is a post and a page is a page. You just got a post from me when I meant to put up a page!

So now the secret is out!

I’m assembling a book of CERT Meeting Ideas for people who train neighborhood CERT groups.

Group leaders, particularly new ones, are always looking for good meeting ideas. After playing a leading role in our neighborhood group for over 5 years, I have planned and put on dozens of meetings! And since I’m me, I have kept notes on each one.

My upcoming book . . .

has about 30 meeting ideas, based on actual experience. There’s a page for each idea, with:

  • a title
  • objective
  • procedure
  • materials needed
  • comments

As soon as the book is finished, I’ll be coming out with a grand announcement. In the meanwhile, if you would like to get on the list to get that announcement, you can do so by clicking here:

I want Ideas for CERT meetings!

Thanks for your understanding regarding the post/page foul-up!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



Keeping CERT Team Interested!


How do you keep your team interested and inspired? How do you keep YOURSELF inspired to be prepared, learn more, share more?

Here are three resources that work for us: online webinars, group training, and – a team newsletter or blog!

Webinar for training* Online webinars

Can you take an hour out of this coming week to attend what is sure to be a top-notch webinar aimed at business preparedness? It takes place Thursday, January 23, at 2 p.m., EST. The sponsor is Agility Recovery. I have reviewed their materials, and participated in a couple of their webinars in the past. Excellent, professional, filled with good info. The topic this Thursday: A Look Back at Disasters 2013.

Sign up to attend: http://go.agilityrecovery.com/WBNR2014-01-23Year-In-Review_.html

* Group training

Last week our local CERT graduates were “treated” to an excellent presentation of First Responder safety around downed power lines and gas leaks. The speakers were reps from our local utility companies (Southern California Edison and The Gas Company), and the presentation itself was for professionals and not the often-watered-down stuff you get for “civilians!” We are making changes in the guidelines for our Block Captains.

Need a speaker? Call your local utility. Demand that they send someone knowledgeable, not just the usual PR person!

* Website

Not everybody needs a website, of course. But having a blog, or even a regular e-newsletter, keeps you out there looking for fresh and interesting new information.

Determined to keep your team members on their toes? Start a newsletter! Ask team members to each submit one article, one link, one photo – and you’ll have a great start.

So much of preparedness is simply awareness. You can help keep it top of mind for your team with just a little effort!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team



How to Plan Great CERT Monthly Meetings


Planning calendar for CERT meetings

Are you in charge of Emergency Preparedness meetings?

Do you have a regularly-scheduled Emergency Preparedness meeting for neighbors or co-workers? If so, you can be thankful this topic is “on the radar.” At the same time, if you are responsible for planning and managing the meeting, then you know it takes thought, each month!

I’ve been running or attending neighborhood CERT meetings every single month for about 15 years. During that time our group has had different group leaders, and they are always on the lookout for suggestions to “make the meetings interesting.”

Recently we had a training meeting that seemed to work well. Here’s a description of how we planned for it. I think you’ll find you could put on a meeting like this with very little effort!

A.  Meeting Timing

We hold our meetings the same day and time every month – makes it easy to remember! We limit each meeting to one hour to keep speakers on their toes and attendees from checking their watches.

B.  Meeting Template

I recommend putting together a meeting template so a new volunteer has a track to run on when stepping up to be that month’s meeting planner. An abbreviated version of our template:

  1. One month before the meeting – arrange for speaker or select training activity. Announce upcoming meeting at any HOA meetings, in the newsletter, online, etc.
  2. One week before the meeting – Distribute invitations via email and/or flyers, arrange for room set-up and audio visual
  3. Day before the meeting – Confirm speaker,  confirm arrangements for room and audio-visual, organize handouts and refreshments, send out last meeting reminder
  4. At the meeting – Assign first to arrive as “hosts” and/or name tag writers, assign a couple of others as clean-up crew
  5. Agenda – Welcome, introduce new members or visitors, present program, acknowledge guest speaker and that meeting’s planning crew, close on time
  6. Day after the meeting — Send out thanks, follow up on action items

New to this Advisory — Be sure to add a “Housekeeping” announcement at the beginning of your meeting. Tell people where to find the restrooms, and share “In case of emergency” information: point out at least two exits from the room (doors, windows, behind the stage!) and the location of the nearest fire extinguisher and/or AED.

C.  Meeting Activities

Coming up with something interesting each month takes effort! Naturally, one good source of programs is guest speakers and guest trainers. We have also found that an occasional training video from YouTube can be a great program.

We have also discovered there are some secrets to successful meetings beyond the formal program, however. They include: having name tags and refreshments, having something for everyone to do (for example, change batteries in radios, give a report on their neighborhood), mixing up whole group and small group activities, and adding an element of competition.

Build a collection of Successful Meeting Ideas

So far, I haven’t found any single great source of meeting ideas, and have been forced to develop my own collection. So far, we have published two volumes of meeting ideas!

Have you put on or attended any particularly good CERT meetings lately? Can you share the topic and the activity with everyone? Just drop a description in the comment box!

Thanks for your input.
Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Looking for regular meeting ideas?  Be sure to get our Advisories, and check out our Book of CERT Meeting Ideas.