Post-Deployment Safety Issues for CERT Volunteers
CERT members like emergency any emergency response personnel spend an enormous amount of time training in order to keep their skills sharp for the one and a million chance of deploying to a disaster. After having deployed the mission does not end. Volunteers may have witnessed traumatic experiences, been exposed to body substances or hazardous chemicals or other environmental issues. Volunteers may also have over exerted themselves and may have injuries that didn't present themselves immediately. In each CERT unit there needs to be a Health and Safety position who's job is to follow up with volunteers looking for these latent issues and to ensure volunteers get proper assistance.
Psychological Trauma and Depression
Psychological trauma is just as real and debilitating as any other wound a person might get during a disaster. Every responder who has undergone extreme stress will likely need to under go some form of counseling to help address this trauma.
Overexerting ones self causes all manor of pains, bruises and discomfort. Most of the time the body simply needs rest and basic treatment such as apply cold and elevating the affected limb. You may need to consult a physician to make sure lingering and ongoing pain is treated correctly.
Blood Borne Pathogens/Infection Control Plans
Diseases can be spread by direct contact with body fluids. CERT members who have been in contact with body fluids need to report this to the Health and Safety Liaison and get tested for infections regularly. CERT members who intend to be in contact with victims or in close proximity of wounds and bodily fluids need to get vaccinated.
- OSHA - Blood Borne Pathogen facts
- OSHA - Blood Borne Pathogen protections
- CDC - Blood Borne Pathogen guidelines
How to Respond
If you have been deployed and experience any type of illness, pain or psychological trauma, you need to notify the CERT health and Safety Liaison or designated CERT parent agency health and safety contact. For simple muscular skeletal issues such as sprains, strains and general soreness; applying cold, elevating the limb should be sufficient. For persistent or more advanced problems contact a physician.
CERT Health and Safety Officer/Liaison responsibilities:
- Document volunteer pre and post deployment medical issues.
- Follow up to see if any post deployment medical issues have become chronic.
- Report deployment medical issues to the CERT parent agency on a regular basis.
- Provide medical information (insurance, recommended treatments, local community clinic and medical resources) to assist CERT members with deployment related injuries.
Health and Safety officer should have medical training as well as having taken FEMA IS-930 training to help understand their role in maintaining the wellness and deploy-ability of their Team. Some CERT Parent agencies offer insurance coverage for volunteers so its doubly vital to track these issues for insurance reasons.
Storing and Sharing Medical Records
Storage and sharing of medical records is very important and you need to be aware of who and when you can share records with.
This aspect of managing your CERT team is extremely important. Persons put in charge of this role needs to seek out their CERT parent organization for formal guidance on this topic. It is recommended that persons in this role are an EMR/First responder or higher medical training.