Community Emergency Response Team

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Peter Hirai, Deputy Director of the Dept. of Emergency Management
The City & County of Honolulu, Dept of Emergency Management (DEM) has been offering Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training for more than a decade but this is the first time they brought everyone together to discuss community organizing. Previously if you completed CERT training you would not be able to find out who in your neighborhood also completed training due to privacy concerns. This policy made it difficult for anyone to contact other CERT members thereby slowing down efforts to organize community groups. Several communities like Manoa, Ewa Beach and Waimanalo, through shear force of will and motivation created teams of CERT graduates that meet regularly to discuss disaster preparedness. Areas like Manoa and Ewa Beach have even conducted preparedness fairs to grow community awareness. The format for today's Meet and Greet was to provide a quick overview of the CERT program and then give people a chance to meet others in their area. If you were from an area with an established group, then you were welcomed into the group. If you were from an area without a group, like Pearl City, Aiea or Kalihi then you are starting from scratch. Taking it to the next level requires a lot of time and sustained commitment. To DEM's credit, they will support the efforts of new CERT communities by attending meetings to aid organizers. Another new offering by DEM is to provide refresher CERT classes, focussing on perishable skills. A third area they are considering is exercising the CERT teams through community exercises or incorporating CERT in statewide Makani Pahili exercises. These are some of the ideas being considered and it appears DEM is making a concerted effort to further nurture CERT community building. They will even provide custom training based on your needs and schedule. In my opinion, whether you are part of an organized community or an individual interested in being disaster prepared, you can not go wrong with going through the CERT program. Oh, and I failed to mention, it is all free.