Merit signs MOU with State of California
On May 31, 2019 Merit (formerly Sig.Ma) signed an MOU with the State of California to provide the platform for tracking the trainings of CERT volunteers. In addition to following standardized FEMA curriculum, CERT programs often go above and beyond and have the best on-the-ground understanding of what skills and trainings are needed in their community and therefor add advanced education courses for their members. Skills such as Stop the Bleed, Traffic and Crowd Control, and Flooding Operations are taught by these grassroots programs, but until now have often lacked a method to know of and leverage these capabilities in disaster situations where they’re most needed. By leveraging Merit, California Volunteers will, for the first time, have a standardized state-wide view of a volunteer’s capacity, and a uniform view of the specializations the CERT volunteers possess. Furthermore, in disaster situations, where information and trust are most needed, Merit provides a secure, cell phone app-based, inter operable system for verifying every volunteer on-scene, allowing groups and agencies to better work together, without having previously met or collaborated.
The Merit platform is provided to CERT agencies and volunteers for free; now and in the future. Are you and your CERT program tracking your trainings with Merit? Ensure your team is deployable in the next disaster by tracking your trainings in Merit. In addition to Merit being the go-to platform for training and certification of CERT members, Merit is also working with California and other disaster-prone states in an effort to become the official time keeping platform of record. States are responsible for submitting their total volunteer hours to FEMA to get reimbursed for out of pocket expenses during a disaster. Those spreadsheet-based and analog records often don’t get recorded correctly, or not at all, and states end up losing millions of dollars in potential lost reimbursed money.
Merit allows for the digital accessing, tracking, and organizing of other achievements and certificates as well. Merit offers organizations and individuals a way to securely issue and manage digital merits creating a single secure platform to verify personal and professional qualifications versus relying on analog paper certificates, ledgers, and plastic identification cards. Merit is based in Millbrae, CA and was founded by Tomer Kagan and Jacob Orrin in 2016. More information about Merit may be found at merits.com.
Listos (Ready) California
There is a relatively new word in CERT, it is Listos. Listos is at the center of what California is investing in and working on in the way of California Volunteerism and Disaster Preparedness. CVAID encourages Community Volunteers Active In Disasters to become familiar with the Listos program, its associated philosophies, teachings, and innovations. Please follow California's lead and encourage and support your CERT Team and sponsoring agency in ensuring preparedness support and information is culturally and linguistically relevant to the diversity that exists in the community and that it is not limited to "those who have been privileged enough to access, understand, and afford it" (Governor Newsom).
According to www.listos.org (2/10/2020) "The Listos curriculum came to be after an exhaustive, inconclusive search for Spanish language disaster preparedness information. The little information that does exist on the subject is usually translated from English to Spanish and does not take into account some of the issues that affect many Latinos, including low literacy rates, cramped living quarters, and a lack of financial resources. The Listos curriculum focuses on low-cost to no-cost preparedness initiatives and providing tips that serve participants not only during disasters but also throughout the course of their everyday lives. Building communities and sharing resources is a concept that is highly prized among Latino populations, and Listos recognizes this fact and uses it to strengthen community ties through disaster preparedness awareness." Listos started in Santa Barbara in the fall of 2010 with generous support from the Orfalea Foundation and the Aware and Prepare Initiative. The initiative focuses on building resilient communities by enhancing the capabilities of government agencies and non-profit organizations to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters. An Armenian version of Listos has been created and there are others in the works.
According to Karen Baker, Senior Adviser for Disaster Volunteering and Preparedness at Cal OES, "We know that people who are socially isolated or live in poverty, have language barriers, or other access or functional needs challenges, need to be the top priority for preparedness campaigns.” Socially vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by devastating wildfires, earthquakes and other disasters, and yet these communities have the least access to preparedness information and support. California is striving to reach these groups through a grassroots, people-centered approach and by leveraging the power of volunteerism.
“Emergency preparedness is not government’s responsibility alone. Solutions can’t be top-down – they have to come from the bottom-up,” said Governor Newsom. This approach is counter-culture to the military model that our fire departments are built upon and often continue to function under. People of minority cultural groups tend to come from areas where there is great distrust of government and together with the younger generations these groups are less likely to join an organization. They are likely to be strong supporters of a cause, but are leery of becoming a member of an organization, especially one that seeks or has the appearance of being controlling. The Listos curriculum uses the "strengths and bonds within the Latino community" to educate and prepare its members for emergencies or disasters. Listos works because it is conducted in a teaching style that is approachable and non-threatening.
What is the culture of your CERT Team and sponsoring government agency? Is it built upon top-down directives or is it built on peer-to-peer relationships? Mark Ghilarducci, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services says, "peer-to-peer networks can literally save lives and help our first responders during and after a disaster." Is your CERT Team a grass-roots community based program, or is it controlled by the brass, agency policy, or a core group of "members". Is there equal opportunity for level 3 members to socialize, network, and feel safe within the group without becoming a level 1 or 2? One of the challenges facing many sponsoring organizations is the need to manage risk and liability. In today's litigious world, this is a real issue. As a result some teams never get a call-out, and as such there is little opportunity to gather, practice, or do team-building. Some agencies have tight controls on their membership roster and social-networking websites. What might your CERT Team and sponsoring agency do differently so as to manage these risks, while at the same time empower the community to better assist Professional First Responders do this all important work? In 2019 Governor Newsom gave CERT and Listos 50 Million dollars to encourage and carry out this agenda. CVAID.ORG is positioned and ready to help! What say you?
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