Emergencies happen quickly and without warning. While first responders are there to help, they are not always able to provide immediate assistance to everyone. You can make a difference in your community by mobilizing your Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) when an incident occurs to save lives and protect property. Start by recruiting and organizing your CERT volunteers before an emergency happens so you are better prepared to act.
Organizing Your CERT Volunteers
A CERT program is only as successful as its volunteers, so it is essential to find the right people to join your team. These might be local officials or community stakeholders. Identify and communicate your needs when building your team and never underestimate someone’s abilities. Everyone can participate as long as their skills are matched with the appropriate role.
1. Promote and Recruit
Once you have developed a plan, getting the support of local stakeholders and officials will affect the success of your CERT. Identify possible community partnerships and recruit ideal participants, which can include those belonging to community groups, business and industry workers, and local government workers.
The next step is to get the word out. Promote your CERT program and gain community support through strong marketing efforts.
The following marketing tactics can help you promote your CERT program and its recruitment:
- Email marketing campaigns
- Social media posts
- Utility bill stuffers
- Public relations efforts
- CERT team presence at local community events
Include the Next Generation of Community Leaders
Volunteers of all ages are welcome. Including younger generations of CERT volunteers is a great way to represent all facets of your community and establish a strong sense of support. Think about your strategy for recruiting and engaging younger generations.
Once your CERT volunteers are onboard, it’s crucial to keep them engaged. Maintaining your program is an ongoing effort. If volunteers don’t have opportunities to practice their skills, their abilities and interest can easily wane.
The following is a list of ideas to keep CERT volunteers involved:
- Regular training, refresher courses, drills and exercises
- Participation in public safety events year-round
- Fun events such as volunteer appreciation activities, fundraisers, etc.
- Frequent communications through email, newsletters, etc.
- Opportunities for volunteers to work their way up to leadership positions
Always Stay In Touch with Your CERT Volunteers
Consider how you can maintain consistent communications with CERT volunteers. This will help make them feel that they are part of an ongoing program, rather than an isolated training event. Also, consider asking for their feedback on the program, how it can be improved, and what they want to get out of it.
Building a Strong Volunteer Force
Maintaining your team of CERT volunteers is a continuous process. In addition to keeping volunteers engaged, you must also set your training schedule, identify your needs and set your goals. To learn more about the program and organizing your own CERT team, visit: Ready.gov
While an effective CERT program relies on the success of numerous elements, establishing a strong band of volunteers is the first step to ensuring the safety and resilience of your community.