Flint and Rinaldi are discovering that in rural communities, the CERTs themselves plan as if they might be the first responders to a disaster, while in urban and suburban communities in Chicago, for example, the need for CERTs is different because those communities have extensive first responders in their police and fire departments. "In the Chicago suburbs, the CERTs might do more crowd and traffic control, provide information, answer telephones and work to unite blocks and neighborhoods in a disaster situation," said Flint.
Most CERTS take an all-hazards approach -- that is, they practice responding to a range of potential emergencies. Many of the CERT coordinators spoke about three broad categories of potential hazards: weather events, transportation accidents and hazardous materials, and terrorism.
"After 9/11, one county in Colorado did a big effort on anti-terrorism, but in 2006, they began shifting the focus to fire, flooding and flu because they saw the likelihood for these occurring as much greater," said Flint.
Before 9/11 there were only about 175 CERTs. Between 2001 and 2006, the number grew to a current listing of 2435. CERTS were moved from being under the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) to Citizen Corps which is under the Department of Homeland Security. There are 86 Citizen Corps groups listed in Illinois but the total number of CERTs in the state is harder to assess. Finding this complete set of CERTs, and assessing how active each one is, is part of the study.
One aspect of Flint's study is also to look at what CERTs can do between disasters. "We tend to be more reactive than proactive; we wait for the first big freeze to go out to buy shovels, flares for the car and plastic to cover windows," said Flint. "Before disaster strikes, CERTS can do a lot in a community to be proactive by building awareness, educating and training. In rural communities
Contact: Debra Levey Larson
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign