This article first appeared in CERT Responder Magazine
Since the beginning of the CERT curriculum in 1993, those involved have continually expanded their skills and capabilities to allow them to prepare and respond to disasters nationwide. We have CERT members to thank for responding safely and effectively to emergency situations in ways that best impact their communities.
And at the core of how CERT programs accomplish this is through each of the 600,000 members’ own unique skills, capabilities, and training they bring to their communities’ disaster situations. Take a hypothetical CERT named Josh who is an EMT for a living. Josh attended California EMS Academy. He’s taken Hazardous Materials training courses. He has Spanish speaking skills. If you ask Josh how he proves this, he might show you a laminated card, a diploma, an email certificate, and a printout. It’s a mess and difficult to verify his many credentials at once. Enter Merit, the free service that enables Josh to capture each of his accomplishments as merits and take action on them. These components of his identity are verified and in combination, unique. And by storing them digitally and making them easily verifiable, CERT members who hold these merits can instantly leverage them on-the-go, whether they’re checking into training or need to prove qualifications for deployment at disaster zones.
Dozens of CERT and other emergency organizations take advantage of merits in a wide spectrum of situations. Volunteer Florida is beginning to use Merit to track and manage its statewide VOAD and CERT responders for disaster planning. Previously knowing which volunteer attended what training or had the expertise, was a messy mix of paper-based documentation, emails, and spreadsheets. When state and local disaster response teams use Merit to track their volunteers’ training, skills, and experience, the entire emergency response network gains clear visibility into who is most capable and where resources stand when it is most critical. This matters when it comes to deploying volunteers, and to on-the-ground coordination. Knowing that someone has a language skill or a certification to do CPR is essential in an emergency. It can save the State time–and time can save lives.
It’s also potentially a massive cost-saving too. In Hurricane Irma, with a $2 billion bill, only 75% is normally paid by FEMA. States and municipalities were on the hook for 25% of the bill, which can be offset through volunteer hours. Merit is addressing this ineffective system for collecting hours served as their Check-In app captures and stores that data systematically. For the next hurricane, this could save Florida tens to even hundreds of millions of dollars, and better prove the impact that CERT and VOAD programs make in their communities.
Merit will listen to its CERT members, Orgs, and developers and adapt to their needs to evolve over time. As such, they’d love to hear from you; if you have suggestions, needs, or war stories to share, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you’re ready to get started sign up your Org today.