Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno and Fire Department (FDNY) Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano today announced that a 12-member FDNY, OEM and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene team will be sent to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to help build a local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. During the two-week deployment, the City’s team will train up to 400 people in fire safety, first aid, triage, strategies to combat civil unrest, light search and rescue, public health, water safety, and disaster psychology. The team will leave for Haiti on June 7th.
“This will be the first time New York City has ever taught its CERT Program outside of the United States and the first time that such a program has been brought to Haiti,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “President Clinton, in his role as the UN’s Special Envoy to Haiti, and former FEMA Director James Lee Witt recommended our program to the Haitian government which in turn asked our instructors to lead the first CERT classes in Haiti. We are honored to do it.”
“Across the country, Community Emergency Response Teams have played an increasingly important role in helping their communities respond to and recover from emergencies,” said Commissioner Bruno. “In just seven years, New York City’s CERT program has grown from 106 volunteers to more than 1,200, and I am pleased we are able to lend our talent and expertise to help Haiti get its own program off the ground.”
“We’re very proud to once again have the opportunity to help the people of Haiti after the terrible tragedy they suffered earlier this year,” said Commissioner Cassano. “In January, our members on the Urban Search and Rescue team did an amazing job rescuing people trapped for days following the earthquake. Now, working with other City agencies, we have the chance to give them training and resources that will help them rebuild and recover.”
“The Health Department is honored to be part of this mission,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley. “Haiti’s earthquake has had devastating effects on the physical and mental health of the population and we are committed to helping Haiti’s people prevent further suffering.”
The 12 member New York City team is comprised of:
Four Haitian-Creole speaking fire fighters, who will be instructing CERT trainees in fire suppression and light search and rescue;
Two FDNY EMS personnel, who will teach first aid and triage,
Two Health Department employees, who will run courses in public health;
Three OEM staff members, who will assist with course instruction and manage the team; and;
A senior CERT instructor who will serve as an advisor and help manage the team.
The roughly 400 Haitians who will be trained live in temporary shelters at the Petionville Club, a former golf course that now houses more than 50,000 people displaced by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck near Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. Shortly after the earthquake, the group that will be trained volunteered to serve with the fire brigade at the settlement and received training in fire suppression.
The CERT program in Haiti will be taught to classes of 40 to 50 people over a 10-day period. The lessons are based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) national CERT curriculum, but they have been modified to meet the needs of Haiti’s population. For example, one lesson will instruct Haitian CERT members about public health issues and drinking water safety.
The CERT concept was first developed in 1985 by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department, which recognized citizens would likely be on their own during the early stages of a disaster. The Los Angeles CERT training proved to be so beneficial that FEMA decided the program should be made available to communities across the United States. In 1994, FEMA and the Los Angeles Fire Department expanded the CERT curriculum. And, in 2003, FEMA’s Citizen Corps Council adopted CERT as a primary way to encourage people to volunteer to make their communities safer, stronger and better prepared to respond to emergencies. There are currently more than 3,500 active CERT programs in the United States.
The concept of developing a CERT program in Haiti came after President William J. Clinton became the United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti in 2009. President Clinton and former FEMA Director James Lee Witt recommended the program to the Haitian government after traveling to the country on series of fact-finding missions. After the earthquake in January, Witt’s firm, James Lee Witt Associates, requested New York City CERT instructors lead the first classes in Haiti. After the first round of training, the curriculum will be evaluated by Haitian officials. The CERT members trained by New York City instructors will then help develop the program in other parts of the country.
CERT in New York City
The New York City CERT program started in 2003 with 106 volunteers. Today, the City has 56 CERT teams and more than 1,200 volunteers representing all five boroughs. New York City CERT volunteers participate in a 10-week training program in disaster preparedness and basic emergency response skills taught by active and retired personnel from the Police and Fire Departments. After completing the training, CERT members support their communities by assisting City agencies that prepare for and respond to emergencies. Recently, CERT volunteers served as interpreters at a fire in Chinatown that displaced more than 200 people.
In addition to assisting first responders during emergencies, CERT volunteers play an important role in training exercises and community events. In 2009, CERT members worked alongside emergency personnel at a simulated train derailment in a subway tunnel and participated in Operation Safe Path, a multi-agency exercise to test the City’s and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s response to an explosion in a PATH train tunnel. Last year, CERT volunteers were also deployed to assist with crowd control at a concert at Citi Field, the US Open in Flushing Meadows, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In addition, CERT members regularly work to educate their communities about emergency preparedness through OEM’s Ready New York campaign.
(YWN Desk – NYC)