The recent floods that devastated the Central Texas community of Wimberley in May left many asking themselves this question. Becoming a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) member will help prepare you and your family for a disaster and provide basic disaster training to assist others in the community.
CERT is coordinated by FEMA but led locally. As of this writing there are over 2200 CERT teams nationwide. You must be at least 18 years of age however local coordinators have the discretion to allow under 18 to participate.
I joined Austin CERT in 2011 by attending evening courses over a period of several weeks. The training was held in the Austin/Travis County EOC which for a technology geek like me was worth the time investment alone. The training class itself was about 35 strong and a diverse mix of young and old alike. The training was interesting and engaging even for a seasoned first responder like myself. For reference the current Austin CERT course description is here.
Working in law enforcement as both police officer and dispacher offered me ample opportunities to help people utterly unprepared, oblivious or even obstinate and hostile. An informed and educated public is the greatest asset to both the first responder and themselves in time of disasters. Preparation prevents panic.
A photo taken during a 2011 Austin CERT Disaster Training Exercise