Just after she turned 9, Hurricane Sandy hit Allison Fung’s hometown of Hoboken, NJ.
“The day after, the streets were so deep in water that cars were totally submerged. Basements were filled with sewage water. We had no power. It was cold and dark in the house with nothing to do, but we had it lucky compared to others,” she recalls of the 2012 storm.
Her family jumped in to help and when Fung distributed food and supplies to those in need “I felt some control over this disaster and like I was doing something to help the community,” she recalls. Following that experience, her parents decided to become CERT volunteers.
Fast forward to 2020. Not only has Fung herself been a CERT volunteer for two years, she helped start a Teen CERT in Hoboken. Creating the Teen CERT has been Fung’s project to earn the Gold Award, the highest honor for the Girl Scouts, another group in which Fung participates.
When she took the adult CERT training, Fung realized the curriculum could be modified for a younger audience. So she led a team to adapt the training for teens in her community, with numerous hands-on activities. Fung also worked with the city of Hoboken to find training space and resources to launch the program this past March.
Then COVID-19 upended her plans. Fung suggested hosting the training via Zoom over the summer. She reached out to Hoboken high schools and advertised it on the local government’s alerts website, as well as on the city’s CERT and other local Facebook pages. Forty teens signed up. Hoboken mayor Ravi Bhalla even attended part of the training.
“As the summer approached I realized that because of the coronavirus, many teens had a free summer due to canceled plans, and now was the time to strike,” says Fung, who is a senior in high school and plans to study environmental engineering in college. “When we started to advertise the program, I was expecting around 10 to 15 participants. It was exciting to see that submissions kept coming and coming and coming!.”
Fung is now planning socially distanced in-person demonstrations to help Teen CERT members get hands-on knowledge in the areas of fire safety and medical operations during disasters. She also led a team of her peers to put together 1,000 3D printed face shields for first responders.
“Although it did not go as originally planned, I am still happy that we were able to launch the program,” Fung says. “I was pleasantly surprised that most of the students stuck with the program the whole way through, and that they were very engaged.”
Interested in organizing or participating in a CERT or Teen CERT in your community? The program is a great way to engage with your neighbors and local groups to prepare for and respond to disasters. Learn more about the programs at www.ready.gov/cert and www.ready.gov/teen-cert.
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This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here.