Disaster Response

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

Preparing For The Future

Community-based preparedness planning allows us all to prepare for and respond to anticipated disruptions and potential hazards following a disaster. As individuals, we can prepare our homes and families to cope during that critical period. Through pre-event planning, neighborhoods and worksites can also work together to help reduce injuries, loss of lives, and property damage. Neighborhood preparedness will enhance the ability of individuals and neighborhoods to reduce their emergency needs and to manage their existing resources until professional assistance becomes available.
 
Studies of behavior following disasters have shown that groups working together in the disaster period perform more effectively if there has been prior planning and training for disaster response. These studies also show that organized grassroots efforts may be more successful if they are woven into the social and political fabric of the community — neighborhood associations, schools, workplaces, places of worship, and other existing organizations.

Call Out Actions

Each CERT is organized and trained in accordance with standard operating procedures developed by the sponsoring agency.  Its members select a meeting location, or staging area, to be used in the event of a disaster.

The staging area is where the fire department and other services will interact with CERTs. Having a centralized contact point makes it possible to communicate damage assessments and allocate volunteer resources more effectively.

Damage from disasters may vary considerably from one location to another. In an actual disaster, CERTs are deployed progressively and as needs dictate. Members are taught to assess their own needs and the needs of those in their immediate environment first.

CERT members who encounter no need in their immediate area then report to their staging area, where they take on assigned roles based on overall area needs. Members who find themselves in a heavily affected location send runners to staging areas to get help from available resources. Amateur radio and other radio links also may be used to increase communication capabilities and coordination.

The CERT Program can provide an effective first-response capability. Acting as individuals first, then later as members of teams, trained CERT volunteers can fan out within their assigned areas, extinguishing small fires, turning off natural gas at damaged homes, performing light search and rescue, and rendering basic medical treatment. CERTs also act as effective “eyes and ears” for uniformed emergency responders.

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2007 Tornado Response

On Friday February 2, 2007 an EF3 tornado with 165 mph winds struck Sumter and Lake Counties damaging over 1000 homes in The Villages. In The Villages no one was killed and only about a dozen people had injuries that warranted hospital treatment. The next morning, Saturday, over 150 CERT of The Villages personnel were called out by the Public Safety Department. An incident command post was setup and tasks assigned. For the next week CERT personnel visited 14,000 homes checking on residents, providing recovery information, and treating injuries suffered in the cleanup.

2017 Hurricane Response

On September 10, 2017 Hurricane Irma made landfall on the west coast of Florida with effects being felt in The Villages. Immediately following a decrease in Irma’s wind speed to safer levels, The Villages Public Safety Department requested that CERT conduct house-to-house checks on the Historic Side in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Concern was expressed about Villagers on 15 streets because of flooding and power issues. Under direction of The Villages Public Safety Department, CERT put together 10 teams of two people with radios to conduct house / resident checks on more than 356 homes on 15 streets. The medical team provided care to four individuals transported to the command post.

During Irma, CERT also helped staff emergency shelters set up at The Villages High School and Paradise Recreation Center. Throughout, and for several days after Irma, 98 CERT members worked almost 1200 hours in service to The Villages and its residents.