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cmhbob
07-15-2014, 03:54 AM
I'm looking for anyone who has been on a response with CERT, specifically on a tornado. Got some questions about how you're called out, how you respond, and what you do when you get to scene.

For example, do you wait for the people you've trained with, or do the first four or five people who arrive check in somewhere, then get assigned to a zone to check? What's the command structure like? That is, who's in charge of your teams? Local LE? Fire? EMA?

Once you're searching a particular area, what do you do if you find a victim, especially if it's pretty obvious the victim didn't die as a result of the storm? I'm thinking of a mummified teen male. How much effort would the CERT team put in to figuring our where he came from? Think older suburban area, not necessarily leveled, but heavily damaged.

Thanks. I might have other questions based on responses.

Trebor1415
07-15-2014, 05:29 AM
I'm looking for anyone who has been on a response with CERT, specifically on a tornado. Got some questions about how you're called out, how you respond, and what you do when you get to scene.

For example, do you wait for the people you've trained with, or do the first four or five people who arrive check in somewhere, then get assigned to a zone to check? What's the command structure like? That is, who's in charge of your teams? Local LE? Fire? EMA?

Once you're searching a particular area, what do you do if you find a victim, especially if it's pretty obvious the victim didn't die as a result of the storm? I'm thinking of a mummified teen male. How much effort would the CERT team put in to figuring our where he came from? Think older suburban area, not necessarily leveled, but heavily damaged.

Thanks. I might have other questions based on responses.


I went through CERT training. I moved to a different city shortly afterwards though, so never went on any calls.

Our CERT team was trained by the local fire department and coordinated with the local police as well.

The thing to remember is that CERT members are citizen volunteers, with a variety of backgrounds, and aren't trained firefighters, or cops, or EMS personal. (In general. Someone could join who used to be a cop, etc., but that would be the exception)


Once you're searching a particular area, what do you do if you find a victim, especially if it's pretty obvious the victim didn't die as a result of the storm? I'm thinking of a mummified teen male. How much effort would the CERT team put in to figuring our where he came from? Think older suburban area, not necessarily leveled, but heavily damaged.

The CERT team wouldn't put ANY effort into figuring out where that mystery victim came from. He's not our job or our responsibility. Most likely we'd note the location, possibly physically mark the location (spray paint, flags, etc) and notify someone from whatever agency is supervising us. (Fire or police)

CERT members aren't investigators and, if someone is dead, they'll mark the spot, tell someone, and keep looking for survivors.

cmhbob
07-15-2014, 05:37 AM
Thanks, Trebor. Were the teams usually provided with radios, or did you hope the cell towers were still up?

Were you trained to look for a command post, then sent out whenever X people showed up? Basically, was there a guarantee that you'd be working with people you trained with?

T Robinson
07-15-2014, 05:40 AM
Define what you mean by CERT. To me, it is Correctional Emergency Response team.

I assumed prison break near a tornado........

melindamusil
07-15-2014, 07:36 AM
Define what you mean by CERT. To me, it is Correctional Emergency Response team.

I assumed prison break near a tornado........

ROFL :D

CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. It was created by FEMA, I think after 9/11 (or maybe it was after Katrina).

Trebor1415
07-15-2014, 07:57 AM
Thanks, Trebor. Were the teams usually provided with radios, or did you hope the cell towers were still up?

Were you trained to look for a command post, then sent out whenever X people showed up? Basically, was there a guarantee that you'd be working with people you trained with?

From what I remember, we would either be activated with a phone call from a phone tree or would just report to the fire station to see if we were needed (if we didn't get a call/had no phone, etc).

The exact situation depended on the emergency and whether it is localized to one area or very widespread.

In general, we were supposed to check in with somebody, at some location (fire station or on scene) and be assigned duties or an area to go to. There was no guarantee we'd work with the people in our specific training class or even with people we'd worked with before during drills, etc. A lot depends on the size of the community, number of CERT volunteers, scale of the disaster, etc.

In some cases CERT might do nothing more than direct traffic and hand out water to the firefighters and in other cases they might be involved in active search and rescue, relying message if phones are down and towers don't work, or patrolling an area looking for problems including people seeking help, gas leaks, etc. (We did have gas wrenches to turn off gas).

I never went on a call, but we weren't issued radios to take home with us or anything. Whether radios would be assigned to teams or groups would most likely depend on how many radios were available and how many people needed radios. Really, you could make that work pretty much any way you need. They might have enough so the team in your story has at least one radio or they might have run out before that team or group got issued a radio.

EDIT: We were each given a backpack of gear paid for from FEMA (I believe) grant money for CERT teams. We took this home and kept it. It included the backpack, a hardhat, reflective vest, flashlight (kinda cheap, I would have used one of my own), Leatherman tool (real one, not a knockoff), leather work gloves, gas wrench, HEPA masks, nitrate gloves, and some other odds and ends that I can't recall at the moment. We were not given radios. (I think we may have had a whistle, but can't recall for sure)

jclarkdawe
07-15-2014, 05:26 PM
Understand that CERT was created to release more skilled workers from less skilled work, such as traffic control.

Command structure for a major event with be the mayor in charge, with police and fire chiefs reporting to the mayor. Additional support people would assist the mayor and come from the State's disaster program. CERT could be under fire or police or a separate commend. Depends upon how it is set up.

Fire and police would probably have individual radios, but CERT would probably only have radios for team leaders at the most.

Any crime scene discovered, the favorite being a meth lab, is immediately referred to the police. The police secure the scene and fire will assist police in making the scene safe. Police would have command of the crime scene.

Depending upon the urgency of the overall situation and the crime scene would depend upon how many resources the police move into the investigation. If the body appeared to be natural causes and unrelated to the disaster, not a lot of resources would be sunk into the investigation.

Identification of a mummified body depends upon how important it is to identify the body. Then it depends upon whether identity markers are available. Does the face match the picture of someone missing? Can the finger prints be lifted from the body? Do you need to go the DNA route? Does the victim have a wallet with identification?

Identification could be within a few hours to months down the road, depending upon what you've got and what the rush is.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

cmhbob
07-15-2014, 07:32 PM
Thanks much to jclarkdawe and Trebor. You guys pretty much covered what I need. The CERT/tornado scene is in the opening of the story, and other than a couple of police interviews, the CERT team never really reappears.

The victim has been dead ten years or so. Identifying him will be the first act. Figuring out where his body was since he died will be the second act. Whodunit is the third.

WeaselFire
07-15-2014, 09:31 PM
I'm looking for anyone who has been on a response with CERT, specifically on a tornado.
Hurricane count? :)

This is easy research, simply call your local fire/rescue department. In many areas, the CERT instructors will happily tell you all you need, as well as invite you to join. Which you should anyway.

Jeff

WeaselFire
07-15-2014, 09:39 PM
Once you're searching a particular area, what do you do if you find a victim, especially if it's pretty obvious the victim didn't die as a result of the storm?
The procedure is to contact your supervisor, the next one up the command chain. In a major event where you're going house to house, you're with a professional and simply assisting with paperwork, diagrams, heavy lifting or clearing debris, traffic control and so on. It's unlikely for a CERT member to be in a position to discover a mummified body, but if any body shows up then the CERT member is out of the picture after the first call to notify your immediate supervisor/commander.

Jeff