The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program trains people to be prepared for emergency situations in their community and neighborhood. CERT members give critical support to first responders in emergencies, provide immediate assistance to victims, collect disaster information to support first responder efforts, and provide the first neighborhood help in the immediate hours following a major emergency. It's families helping themselves and neighbors helping neighbors to prepare, respond and recover in their own neighborhood.

Hurricanes, tornadoes, large wildfires, hazardous materials incidents, and acts of terrorism have clearly shown during the initial hours following the disaster, emergency personnel are overloaded, unable to reach areas or are short of personnel to respond. Others often have had to pitch in to help persons in their immediate neighborhood. CERT training gives individuals the decision-making and physical skills to offer immediate assistance to family members, neighbors and business associates in an efficient and effective manner without being placed in unnecessary danger.

A CERT team is neighbors and business colleagues, who following training, initiate neighborhood or business teams, whose actions make a difference. Following a 21-hour basic training program and on-going efforts, the team can manage utilities, put out small fires, provide lifesaving interventions, perform basic search and rescue operations, assist in damage assessment, evacuation and rapid sheltering. Administrative support and organizing positions are also available.

CERT is active in over 30 Florida counties with over 5,000 neighborhood trained personnel. It is a "local" program formed through the office of emergency management.

Training for CERT begins February 8, 2005. For registration information, call Hamilton County Emergency Management at 792-6647.

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