Like neighborhood watch groups with specialized skills, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) are small groups of volunteers trained to, basically, serve as auxiliary first responders during disasters. While CERT programs traditionally have been born of community groups, colleges and universities are quickly catching on—and Case Western Reserve University is at the forefront.

National innovation

Case Western Reserve has been awarded a grant worth more than a half-million dollars by the U.S. Department of Education Safe and Drug Free Schools, Emergency Management for Higher Education program. Through this grant the university’s emergency management department, with support from human resources, will develop and implement a comprehensive national model for disaster resilience on a college campus. Among other innovations, the grant will be used to establish and train a CERT specifically for Case Western Reserve.

Realistic operation

Developed and implemented by the Los Angeles Fire Department in the 1980s in response to wildfires, CERT has been applied successfully in the aftermath of an earthquake in California. The Emergency Management Institute and the National Fire Academy have adopted and expanded CERT materials.

During a widespread disaster, first responders may not be able to quickly reach and treat all those who are displaced or injured. Often coworkers, family and neighbors among those in need are in the best position to provide urgent care. CERT programs prepare community members to mitigate, respond and recover.

Fundamental education

CERT members gain knowledge and skills in disaster response through online study and hands-on practice with licensed emergency and medical professionals.

They learn to open patient airways, control bleeding, treat for shock and address psychological effects. They practice search and rescue and how to handle small fires. They study organizational principles and even animal response.

Train-the-trainer modules also are available.

Statewide connection

Faculty and staff volunteers selected for the Case Western Reserve CERT program also become official members of the Ohio Citizen Corps.

On a statewide scale, the Ohio Citizen Corps prepares, coordinates and supports residents in communities who assist emergency personnel in case of disasters. Registered members of the organization are protected under State of Ohio privacy and liability legislation.

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