Op-Ed: CERT Training Vital When Tragedy Turns Us All into First Responders

We know how important CERT training is – a random stranger may save your life because he/she is part of CERT, and very often, that random stranger will be the only person able to help you before first responders can reach your location.

In a commentary piece for the Daily Pilot, Dr. Joshua Bobko writes about how tragedy requires us all to become first responders. He believes in the approach of ‘first-care providers,’ training people to be able to provide basic medical care to save lives before first responders can get to the scene. He says teaching CERTs and other people in the community about this approach could improve our first response abilities greatly.

“Another killing at Ft. Hood, Texas, reminds us that these horrific acts of violence can occur anywhere, at any time, even on a secured Army post,” Bobko begins.

“Sadly, the shootings also highlight that our responsibilities as citizens have changed forever. These events again demonstrate that there will be situations when everyday citizens will have to help themselves. People waiting in line at the bank, watching a movie or just eating their lunch will have to act before the traditional first responders can arrive to help them.”

Though a first responder is traditionally defined as “fire, police and emergency medical personnel,” recent tragic events have shown this definition does not encompass all the people who end up becoming first responders in fast-acting situations.

According to Bobko, the 2014 FBI active shooter report found that most of the time, a shooter has already done the damage before traditional first responders can arrive.

“It is much more likely that the actual first responders will be bystanders already on scene. This was true in Aurora, Colo., Tucson, Ariz., Ft. Hood, Texas, and nearly every deadly event in recent memory,” writes Bobko.

He cites military data which shows that 15% of those wounded in combat die from “preventable causes of death” and most of them die within 30 minutes of getting injured. However, the data also shows that 90% will survive once care has begun.

“Critically injured people might not last until traditional first responders overcome the confusion of the first few minutes and arrive on scene. What happens during that gap can literally be the difference between life and death,” writes Bobko.

“There is no question that the sooner victims get care, the greater their chances of survival. Getting this care to the point of wounding can only be accomplished by acknowledging the gap in our approach and recognizing the need for a new class of provider: the ‘first-care provider.’”

Bobko says educating Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), city and school workers and volunteer groups is vital to improving our overall response.

CERT training, offered by FEMA, began in 1985 when the Los Angeles City Fire Department developed the idea.

According to FEMA’s website, the goal of CERT is to organize, train and prepare teams so that they become an extension of first responder services who can offer immediate help to victims until professional services arrive.

“The need to improve community safety through civilian medical response is glaring. But to meet the challenge of these dynamic new threats we have to understand the limitations of our ‘traditional’ response and recognize the profound gap in our current model,” writes Bobko.

“We must accept that ‘first-care provider’ is a set of tools that can be taught and will save lives.”


For more on CERT and CERT training, click here: http://www.fema.gov/community-emergency-response-teams/about-community-emergency-response-team
For the original op-ed piece, click here: http://www.dailypilot.com/opinion/tn-dpt-me-0413-commentary3-20140411,0,4378184.story