Tag: logistics

Emergency Preparedness Vocabulary


We get used to using the jargon of preparedness, and sometimes forget that not everybody thinks about this stuff on a daily basis! Here is some basic emergency preparedness vocabulary you can share with your neighbors and co-workers, particularly if they are new to the concept or if their English language skills aren’t well developed.

Nobody likes to feel left out or stupid. We have found that offering the vocabulary words “as a refresher” is a good way to develop a new level of engagement and confidence. This approach works for everybody!


This is the official word for the emergency itself – whether it is a fire, an earthquake, aftermath of a hurricane, or a train wreck. An incident can be local, or it can be widespread. We often think of something that is “incidental” as being not very important. In the world of emergency response, an incident is the most important thing! The Incident Commander is the person who takes charge of the response. (Interestingly enough, the very first person who arrives at the scene may become the first Incident Commander, but when someone more qualified arrives, that person may take over!)

Search and Rescue

This is pretty straight forward. It refers to searching for, finding and helping people in immediate danger. Professionals often divide this up into specialty sub-fields that require special training and/or equipment, such as mountain rescue, swift water rescue, etc.

Search and rescue activities are stopped if it is clear there are no more living victims, or if the situation becomes too dangerous for the rescuers. Eventually, search and rescue changes over to “recovery.”


When rescuers are searching through collapsed structures, they may want to lift pieces of debris to reach people trapped beneath. To do this safely, they lift piece by piece and create a support structure to hold each layer safely before moving on to the next. The process is called “cribbing.” It usually involves using pry bars to lift debris, then building a support underneath using wooden beams laid across one another in the form of a box.

Triage (“tree-ahzh”)

In a real emergency, one of the hardest jobs for a volunteer is to not stop to help the first injured person they come to! Instead, they go through a process to sort injured people into groups based on their need for medical treatment. Triage is that sorting process. Its purpose is to serve the most people when resources are limited. Typically, injured people are briefly assessed and then labeled as “minor” (a minor injury), “immediate,” “delayed,” or “deceased.” A fully equipped CERT team will have colored labels (see illustration to left) to attach to victims; this helps trained first responders know where to go when they arrive.

CERT (“sirt”)

The Community Emergency Response Team concept was started in Los Angeles in the 1980s and is now in every state of the union. Professional First Responders had seen the role that committed, ordinary citizens can play in large-scale disasters, when resources are delayed or spread thin. So they created training to give citizens a way to act more safely and more effectively. CERT training usually consists of 20-24 hours of classroom study and hands-on practice. In an emergency, CERT graduates are able to act first as individuals and later as teams to assess damage, extinguish fires, perform light search and recue and render first aid. When professional First Responders arrive, CERT teams serve as support if required.

Logistics (“lo-jis-tiks”)

This is the science of getting supplies to where they are needed. In an emergency, it involves understanding the scope of the incident, knowing what tools, supplies or equipment are available and where they are stored, and making arrangements for getting things delivered to where they are needed. A volunteer totally unfamiliar with the neighborhood or business will not be able to manage this job.

In our neighborhood, we have special teams devoted to each of these special areas. The leaders of these teams call upon other volunteers and direct them, as required.

Action item:  Consider printing out these definitions for all team members, and going over them out loud at a training meeting so everyone knows how they sound.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Like words?  Here are a couple of other “vocabulary” lists for different situations!

Develop Leadership Strengths Through CERT


One of the basic premises of Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training is to develop leadership.

In an emergency, the first qualified person on the scene takes the reins of leadership as the “Incident Commander,” following the CERT guidelines . . . but then turns over that leadership to a more qualified member of the team who may join the action later.

This is one of the reasons you want as many of your people fully-trained as possible.  It’s not unlike the cross-training that members of the military special forces receive.

Military training

Military training equals leadership for CERT.

(In fact, some of the best people to get involved in a company or neighborhood CERT are former military or people with actual first responder experience.)

Wanted:  Self-Starters

But that special experience aside, the best leaders are going to be those people who have the vision, foresight and commitment to play a key role in forming a team. These are the natural leaders in your business or community who are self-starters.  You will find them heading up the team sports programs like Little League Baseball or Soccer programs.  In business they are the people who take on additional tasks or make suggestions to improve products, etc.

Remember, this is a “voluntary” program.

You don’t want to “assign” people to positions on the team.  That can open you up to possible legal problems and could jeopardize the spirit (if not the letter) of the Good Samaritan legal protection for individuals.

In building an Emergency Plan, you define the roles to be played and the suggested activities within them and give team members the opportunity to step forward and do what they are comfortable with.

Suggested Team Positions

As you build an Emergency Response Plan, here are some suggested team positions and qualifications:

1. Incident Commander – Most qualified volunteer with additional training in the Incident Command System (ICS) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).  You ideally want to have at least 3 or 4 members of your team qualified to fill this position.

 2. Search & Rescue Team Leader – CERT qualified plus previous first responder experience or training if possible.

3. Triage & First Aid Team Leader – CERT qualified plus training in Red Cross First Aid and related courses.  Retired or former nurses, teachers, military with medic training, etc. are also desirable if they are available to you.

4. Logistics Team Leader – Someone who keeps track of various tools and other assets that are available in the neighborhood . . . or, in the case of a business or enterprise, on location.  This could include fire suppression equipment, tools, generators, etc.

5. Division Leaders – Depending on the size of your neighborhood or business enterprise, you may want to divide your community into manageable sections with Division Leaders acting as Local Incident Commanders.

In the case of a closely laid out community, a Division might encompass 50 or 60 homes with 3 – 6 Block Captains, each reporting on 8 – 15 homes and their occupants.  In a business with multiple buildings or locations with a number of employees each, you might want a Division Leader for each building, etc.

6. Block Captains – People who have at least some CERT training who keep track of a block of homes, between perhaps 6 and 20 depending on the makeup of the community.  In the case of apartments, they could be “Floor Captains” or in a business, “Group Captains,”  The titles aren’t really important, but the function is.  These are the people who will check on the well-being of their neighbors or co-workers immediately following an emergency.

How you structure your organization really depends on a number of factors.  We strongly recommend completing the Basic CERT training and the two Incident Command Structure on-line trainings.  Also helpful are the four “Shelter Management” trainings offered by the American Red Cross.

By-Products of the Training

Two of the by-products of any of these training courses – especially the hands-on CERT training – are the confidence and peace of mind that participants gain.  Knowing what to do in an emergency and being disciplined in responding removes a lot of the fear of the unknown. It also creates an awareness and a willingness to act without delay, when  action is called for.

We have been fortunate to witness these positive by-products in our own community under potentially dangerous situations.