Community preparation for first emergency responses (CERT)


CBDRM actions are carried out through the strengthening of emergency or disaster response capacities at the personal, household and community levels, with active community participation being essential. The project consists of the implementation of the “Community Emergency Response Team programme (CERT)”, which runs across three days. The course covers topics such as disaster preparedness, structural fires, medical care, organisation of the community team and emergency psychology. The project has been carried out since 2015 at the national level and is still being implemented, with works being carried out in the Maule region, mainly in communes and communities that are exposed to risks. The funding is divided into two parts: the first part on logistics and instructors from the National Office of Emergencies (ONEMI, in Spanish). Food costs and breaks are coordinated with the entities interested in the course, for example the Municipalities, and include the lunches and coffees necessary for the course. Course participants include the instructors, the community, the municipal personnel, the municipal health personnel and the public order forces.


First responders recognise the community as a support in dealing with the emergency because they will be the first responders in an adverse event. Therefore, communities need to be prepared. When the community is trained and obtains the necessary information and practice, the impact of an adverse event is less, and professional emergency units such as the Fire Department, the Police Force or the Health Department recognise the community as part of the civil protection system. The role of the local government is important since the first respondent is at the municipal level through its emergency department, which is represented by its Community Emergency Director. They recognise the community as a trained resource and the local emergency plans of each neighbourhood become part of the community emergency plan. Activities are coordinated with the national guidelines of the National Office of Emergencies, through the Municipalities or government agencies that have presence and competence in the community.
The program is guided by an inclusive participation of all people in the community. Women, men, the elderly, people with disabilities, youth and children are invited to participate, with the premise that all human resources in emergencies are important when they are properly trained and obey a unity of command through the Incident Command System. The most vulnerable groups are always targeted because the social expression of an emergency is potentially dangerous in terms of the lives of people, property and the environment. The structure of the course is in accordance with the principle that all resources in emergencies are important and participate in a major role. The elderly and children under the tutorship of their parents participate in the course, along with people with disabilities.
One of the strategic pillars are the resilient communities; therefore the intense work of this service is to adapt to the variables and needs of the population in the disaster preparedness, which lies in a monitoring structure of the communities. Monitoring and learning are coordinated directly by the National Emergency Office, which advises the Municipality or Government Service that are an integral part of working directly with communities. Thus, the course and its applications, not only in the Maule region but also at the national level, are constantly analysed by its instructors in order to include the observations and to improve its applications to the community, under the parameters of continuous improvement, in attention to the dynamics that it exerts on the communities in the management of disaster risk reduction.


The initiative has been able to continue because the services or organizations involved monitored the actions in a coordinated manner, and because the national territory was affected by a major or complex emergency that affected the population. But thanks to the culture of emergency preparedness established in the community, people were interested in community preparedness work, which is the main input for continuity. Resources and practices are analysed once a year or depending on the end of the cycle explained above.
The course implementation contributes to the community, family and local self-care, where emergencies do not claim victims and affected people are cared for by community groups available and first responders such as fire fighters, health services and others. Through preventive planning, communities can work together to help reduce injuries, loss of life and damage to property. Community preparedness will improve the capacity of individuals and communities to reduce their needs in emergencies and to manage existing resources until professional help becomes available. Post-disaster behavioural studies have shown that groups working together during this period perform more effectively if there was prior planning and training to respond to the disaster. These studies also show that grassroots organised efforts can be more successful if they are intertwined with the community (neighbour council, schools, workplaces, places of worship and other existing organisations). Therefore, an effective response requires comprehensive planning and coordination of all stakeholders - government, volunteer groups, private businesses, schools and community organisations. With training and information, individuals and community groups can be prepared to serve as critical resources, capable of carrying out many of the emergency functions needed in the immediate aftermath of disaster. The CERT program is designed to enable individuals, through training, to become valuable people who help communities prepare for and respond effectively to disasters.


As a result, the best preparation for the community is the CERT teams training (community first emergency response teams). This course covered topics such as: • Lesson 1 Disaster Preparedness • Lesson 2 Fire Prevention and Control • Lesson 3 Disaster Medical Care I • Lesson 4 Disaster Medical Care II • Lesson 5 Surface Search and Rescue • Lesson 6 Emotional Support in Disasters • Lesson 7 CERT Team Organisation
CBDRM is addressed by Chile's National Policy for Disaster Risk Management, in addition to the Supreme Decree 156 that approves the National Civil Protection Plan and National Strategic Plan for DRM 2015-2018, along with the National Platform and operational guidelines of the National Emergency Office. Approaches are standardised through ONEMI formats in response to the ISO 22.320 Emergency Management System certification. At the moment the projects to enhance community preparedness are essential in the new law in the Chilean Senate chamber, which is creating the Risk and Emergency Management Service. The standardisation of work is already being done gradually, working on emergency plans at the regional, provincial and community levels, as well as on plans for DRM based on risk variables at regional level.
Given the importance of coordinating actions for the first response to emergencies, the entity responsible for coordinating the first responses at the local level is the municipality, providing technical advice and funding, which will lead to an increase in professionals in their own work.
Although there are incentives such as the FNDR projects (National Fund for Regional Development), these funds are allocated to the application of several variables and are not exclusive to DRM, depending on the regional councillors and where they are making the regional projections. Notwithstanding the above, there are funds allocated to SUBDERE, for the municipalities, which are for emergency preparedness, mitigation and response to emergencies, but by 2017 around 20% were regionally implemented. Finally, ONEMI is developing guidelines to improve and train emergency response agencies in favour of their community and technical agencies in principles of coordination.
The CERT program is capable of influencing other communities thanks to the community advertising, and ONEMI's work with the municipalities is also disseminated with verification material. Additionally, there are benefits for community members, CSOs and the government. Within school planning, this program is also introduced as a complement of the Integrated School Safety Plan. The local means of feedback materialise through the generation of Underlying Risk Surveys that are applied to the municipalities or through any emergency response agency. The National Emergency Office of the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security, ONEMI, aims to explain with this document, in a simple way, the standard methodology designed for the identification of the underlying disaster risk factors at the community level. This translates into the application of a survey that analyses 4 areas, which are broken down into 41 questions, with the aim to capture reliable and updated information delivered through a communal self-assessment. This leads to a diagnosis of the underlying risk factors at the local level and providing management measures in line with the communal territory. In order to achieve this, all the country's municipalities are invited to take part in this pioneering process which, based on its implementation, will make it possible to strengthen relations with their respective civil protection systems. This leads to the promotion of a comprehensive approach and the propensity for collaborative measures and initiatives aimed at reducing the identified underlying factors, and thus effectively reducing disaster risk. The above aims to promote and strengthen, in a timely and pertinent manner, the design, implementation and assessment processes of various public and private interventions in the territory, thereby strengthening the prevention, response and adaptation capacities of the communities. This leads to a focus on aspects that are identified after the assessment, such as the weaker areas of local risk management, as well as the promotion of aspects that have greater potential and/or strength in the territory.