By Christian Strong
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
The city of East Lansing is looking for you. Its new program, CERT, or Community Emergency Response Team is now accepting volunteers.
CERT “is a group of volunteers from a geographical area that are trained in basic disaster response type techniques,” said East Lansing Police Officer Steve Gonzalez. The emergency program is a first for East Lansing. The program is accepting volunteers for 20 hours of mandatory training that will cover areas such as terrorism, fire safety, natural disasters, basic first aid, and search and rescue. The East Lansing Police Department, the East Lansing Fire Department and the Michigan State University Police collaborate on the project.
“MSU campus does have a CERT team that is primarily focused on the university’s campus. They are available to the city of East Lansing if we were to need them, however the police department and the fire department in cooperation with MSU Police are going to create a CERT team that will focus within the city limits itself, then the two teams could work jointly in the need of a major disaster or if we have a large event that we need a lot of volunteers for,” Gonzalez said.
Training for the program will take place in a conference room at the East Lansing Police Department. There, volunteers will receive table-top training, they will also visit external sites such as the fire department to train for more complicated hands-on procedures such as fire suppression.
Volunteers are not required to have experience in emergency preparedness but are expected to be 18 or older, sign a waiver and submit to a background check.
Volunteers will not only assist during disasters but will be called upon to assist in non-emergencies such as the NCAA celebrations and the East Lansing Art Festival.
The CERT program is expected to be a helpful resource for the East Lansing community, said East Lansing Fire Marshal Bob Pratt. “It will be a big bonus for the community in several ways simply having 20 or 30 trained volunteers out there will be that many less people that need help in the case of an emergency.”
According to citizenscorp.gov, the national website for CERT, the Community Emergency Response Team concept was employed and developed by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985. The 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake illustrated a need for emergency training for civilians for their own self-reliance in case of emergencies. The Los Angeles City Fire Department created the Disaster Preparedness Division to educate and train citizens.
The idea for a CERT program for East Lansing was conceived in 2010 and one of the goals is educating East Lansing citizens on disaster preparedness, said MSU Police 1st Lt. Penny Fischer.
Fischer also offers advice to citizens on disaster preparedness for those who will not become members of the program.
“Think about what you need in a disaster, how you can best prepare yourself, because to help someone else you and your own family need to be prepared first. So think about what things you could do proactively, think about the resources that are available to you and around you in the community, so be informed in terms of what sort of resources are available,” Fischer said.
Citizens in East Lansing also agree the program will help the community.
“I think that creating a CERT program will be nice especially around a college campus such as Michigan State University, because there is a lot of crimes that will happen. I’m sure students come up missing all the time. It’s really nice just to have a program that is available and made specifically for trying to help find people and first aid, and accidents are bound to happen,” said Anna Slogor, a sophomore at Michigan State University.
Applications for CERT are being accepted until Feb. 15. Training will begin in early March. Volunteers can submit an application online at cityofeastlansing.com or pick up a paper application from East Lansing City Hall, 410 Abbot Road. For more information, contact ELPD Officer Steve Gonzalez at 517-319-6897.