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

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