A member of the Community Emergency Response Team assists an injured woman
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Tips for CERTs as Hurricane Season Nears

May 2021

Are you a Volunteer or Program Manager with a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)? Hurricane season is on the way, and while COVID-19 vaccines are putting a dent in the pandemic, social distancing, and other measures will need to be in place again this year during the response to storms.

If you live in an area at risk for hurricanes, now is the time to start planning with your CERT for how you may need to adjust your hurricane preparedness activities.

CERTs in North Carolina and Florida provide some tips for how they responded to a complex hurricane season last year. The year 2020 saw 30 named storms, 12 of which made landfall. Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science predicts another above-average season in 2021. Keep your eyes out for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) forecast in late May.

According to FEMA’s 2019 National Household Survey, people living in hurricane-prone areas are more likely to prepare for a storm than those living in other hazard areas. About 80 percent of those living in hurricane areas have gathered supplies for at least three days, and 52 percent have participated in an emergency drill. CERTs are instrumental in helping those who aren’t prepared or who must evacuate.

Here are some tips and takeaways that can help with this hurricane season:

  1. Prepare early. The Robeson County Teen CERT in North Carolina positioned emergency shelter and flood kits, along with solar lights and tarps, ahead of storms so they could be ready for use. Remember to include hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies.
  2. Be ready to help quickly. After Hurricane Sally hit Florida last September, 30 CERT Volunteers with the Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE) were in place within an hour to help with shelters and points of dispersal (PODs). A month earlier, Hurricane Isaias made landfall in North Carolina. Because it didn’t cause damage in Robeson County, CERT Volunteers were able to jump right in to help evacuees from other parts of the state obtain hotel vouchers since large shelters could not provide safe social distancing.
  3. Adapt your response. COVID-19 upended many traditional disaster response practices last year and will again in 2021. For example, during Hurricane Sally, BRACE served 136 meals from the back of a pickup truck. This allowed for quick distribution of the food to their surrounding communities.
  4. Remember lessons learned. This year, BRACE CERT Volunteers used their experience enforcing social distancing and wearing masks during their hurricane-pandemic response to support vaccination clinics in enforcing the same safety measures.

  5. Interested in joining a CERT to help prepare for and respond to emergencies? Visit www.ready.gov/cert to learn more and find your local CERT.

    Additionally, learn more about hurricanes and prepare for the start of the 2021 season by visiting www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

    This article first appeared in the monthly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter. Subscribe here.