Tag: volunteer

What can I do to help others?

washing hands to help prevent coronavirus - is it all you can do?
Is this all I can do????

I keep hearing neighbors say, “If only I could be doing something to help others!”

I feel the same way, because this staying at home gets mighty tiresome. So I turned to one of my favorite resources: Google Alerts.

(Anyone who writes for a living or for a hobby is always looking for resources – history, current news, people in the news, etc. So we all know Google Alerts.)

One of my alerts tracks the expression “CERT.” And I have been collecting story after story about how CERT teams are being activated to help others in their communities.

Are you familiar with CERT?

By now you are likely to be familiar with CERT, but if not, here’s your chance to find out more. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers have taken a national course in citizen emergency response sponsored by FEMA. The actual training is delivered locally by your city or county. It’s a 20 hour course, usually free or at low cost, and it covers basics of emergency management, first aid, fire safety, disaster psychology, etc. Trainers usually come from the local police and fire departments.

The training is meant to educate volunteers so they know what to expect and how to respond to help their community for the first 72 or so hours after a big disaster. Why 72 hours? Because that’s how long it might take for professional First Responders to get to you! (I will repeat what our Fire Department says to us regularly. “In a big emergency you are not high on our priority list.”)

Here’s a short YouTube video about CERT.

CERT training is valuable – and fun! Joe and I were part of our city’s 3rd graduating class, back in 2001. They are now up to Class 78!  (It’s been cancelled for the time being, as you can imagine.)

One you’ve graduated, you are encouraged to continue to support your community in various activities. For example our CERT team has been called upon to search for lost citizens (at night). We have spread a message about auto theft in a particular neighborhood. And we support our police and fire departments in a variety of outreach events every year.

With the coronavirus creating new needs, CERT teams are being activated all across the country.

Here are just a few of the articles I have captured on my Google Alerts about CERT volunteers helping others in their communities.

  • Longmont (CO) CERT members are hosting a mask and glove drive for workers on the front lines of the coronavirus.
  • In Nebraska, the Hall County CERT has been helping with Strategic National Stockpile Hubs.
  • The Hall County CERT teams have also been called up to assist in county elections, where regular poll works have been lost.
  • New Jersey CERT volunteers are helping train food distribution workers in safety measures as groceries are collected in local food pantries.
  • CERT volunteers are serving in support roles at the Emergency Operations Center of Stafford County (VA). They are also staffing at the county’s PPE drop-off center.
  •  In Walton County (FL), CERT members are helping with a drive-thru food distribution program.
  • Hoboken (NJ) residents are able to call for an appointment for testing, thanks to the CERT volunteers staffing the call center.
  • CERT volunteers are providing traffic control for a drive-thru testing clinic in Fairbanks (AK).
  • In New York City, CERT volunteers are assisting in food distribution programs, canvassing senior centers and tracking and distributing sanitary supplies for childcare and early childhood centers. They are also helping deliver individual grocery and pharmacy necessities.

In each of these cases, their community called upon vetted CERT volunteers to provide essential support.

In some communities, CERT groups have not been formally “activated” but they find ways to help others anyway!

Because CERTs have skills, training and are by definition leaders, they are finding ways to volunteer without it being a formal effort.

  • Last week, for example, two CERT groups in our Southern California area were invited to participate in a PPE collection by donating extra personal supplies.  (You may have received the notice I sent out about that.)
  • Individual CERT volunteers supported a “face shield assembly” project set up by a local Rotary club.
  • Here in our neighborhood CERT grads have been sewing face masks for seniors and helping direct traffic for a drive-thru food distribution program sponsored by a local church.
  • And you’ve heard about our CERT volunteers doing telephone outreach to neighbors.

The point of all this?

You don’t have to be a “member” of any group to find a way to help others during this crisis.

And you don’t have to necessarily be physically strong, or have to commit to hours on your feet. Take your time to find a volunteer job you can manage and enjoy.

If you do, you won’t have to go around saying, “If only I could do more to help others!”

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. And when we are “back to the new normal,” consider taking the CERT training in your own city. You, your family and your neighborhood will all benefit for years to come! (Here’s another description of CERT written by one of our readers who went through Hurricane Florence.

April – Month of Action

Your Team Will Save Your Life


The Single Most Important Preparation Factor is Your Team

CERT team in training

CERT team practices for emergency response

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training is, in itself, only a beginning. The real value is in the “Team.” As we have pointed out previously, your neighbors and co-workers are the people you will be most dependent upon for life-saving assistance in a sudden emergency . . . and vice versa.

The more you act as a team, the better your chances of survival. The more people in your circle at work and at home have knowledge of the life-saving and recovery skills taught in CERT classes, the better everyone’s overall chances are. But, there’s more to being a team than shared knowledge.

Here is an overview of the steps to effective team building:

  1. Individual CERT training – If provided by your city or county, you are ahead of the game.
  2. Identifying and maintaining contact with other CERT trained individuals at your work and in your neighborhood . . . two different teams in most cases.
  3. Forming a core-leadership group – preferably 6-10 trained and motivated individual volunteers in each area (home and work).
  4. Building a basic Action Plan – The simpler you can keep it, the better. (We’ll be dealing with this step in much greater detail in future posts.)  Keep in mind that this is a “voluntary” activity and no one should be required to do anything or even asked to do something that will endanger them.
  5. Choosing activities people feel comfortable heading up – Key considerations are light Search & Rescue, Communications, Logistics, Planning & Operations, First Aid & Triage, Damage Assessment, Hospitality, Training, etc.
  6. Recruiting will be an ongoing process as people come and go in the workplace or the neighborhood. Training is a continuing activity to keep skills up and participants interested.

Maintaining the edge 

Once you have a plan and have divided up the operational tasks, recruitment and training become the biggest ongoing challenges. Your team — whether in your neighborhood or at work – will only be as effective as the level of skill, knowledge and commitment of the participants.

Overcoming resistence or lack of responsiveness

Don’t settle for lame excuses!

“I don’t have the time to participate, but I’ll be available to help in an emergency”

You’ll hear this from too many people. When disaster strikes, you won’t have much time or patience for training people.

Instinctive action by each member of the team is what will be required. Untrained people, well-meaning as they may be, are likely to be of little effective help.  In fact, they could become part of the problem rather than add to the solution.

Some of these people may be impossible to motivate and the best you can hope for is to get them to prepare themselves with enough food, water and medicine to take care of their own household or their business unit. At least that way they won’t be begging for food & water from their more pro-active neighbors.

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