Fire Corps & CERT: Working Together to Build Stronger Communities

Sunday, 07 January 2007

Fire Corps has released a new guide to assist departments in utilizing citizen volunteers for both Fire Corps and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) programs. CERT & Fire Corps: Working Together To Build Stronger Communities looks at how these two programs can work together to create a comprehensive citizen volunteer program that can more completely meets a department’s diverse range of needs as well as keeps citizen volunteers actively engaged both in times of crises and in between.

CERT and Fire Corps are partner programs that fall under the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps initiative. Although all five of the Citizen Corps partner programs complement and support each other, Fire Corps and CERT have a unique relationship. Both programs utilize citizen volunteers to assist the fire and emergency services and are usually implemented at the local level through a community’s fire/EMS department or emergency management office. CERT primarily provides operational or emergency support during times of disaster, and Fire Corps primarily provides non-operational or non-emergency support between community emergencies. Together, these two programs provide critical support for emergency responders, allowing them to focus on training and preparing for emergencies as well as supplementing scarce first-responder resources in times of large-scale disasters.

As programs that help the fire and emergency services, CERT and Fire Corps appeal to largely the same audience. Members of these programs may even find themselves fulfilling similar roles, such as assisting with traffic control during community events or emergency incidents, installing smoke alarms, and conducting training for the department. This presents an excellent opportunity for the two programs to work together, strengthening the role that citizen volunteers play in the community by providing them with both emergency and non-emergency opportunities within the department. By combining efforts, CERT and Fire Corps programs can maximize the resources a department puts into a volunteer program as well as those they get out of a volunteer program.

This guide outlines how CERT and Fire Corps can work together to build stronger communities. It looks at the challenges faced by both programs, including retention and recruitment, and shows how working together can help overcome these challenges. It walks departments through the steps of establishing and implementing CERT and Fire Corps programs, as well as transitioning volunteers from one program to both. The guide also includes profiles of departments that have successfully combined their CERT and Fire Corps efforts to develop a comprehensive program that benefits fire and emergency service departments and the communities they serve.

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