The Rochester Fire Department is hosting Community Emergency Response Team training this February to teach community members basic disaster response skills.

The Rochester Fire Department is hosting Community Emergency Response Team training this February to teach community members basic disaster response skills.

Photo provided by the Rochester Fire Department

Rochester recruits new emergency volunteers

Community Emergency Response Team training held Feb. 26-March 1

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published January 10, 2024


ROCHESTER — Community members who want to assist first responders in the event of a major disaster and to brush up on their emergency preparedness skills can attend free Community Emergency Response Team training next month.

The training workshop series, which is free and open to the public, will be held 6-10 p.m. Feb. 26-March 1 at the Rochester Fire Department, 277 E. Second St. Those interested must register by Feb. 19, and there is room for 25 people.

“The training is a great way to better prepare yourself and your family in the event of an emergency, and, if you have the desire to serve and give back to the community, this is a great way to do it,” said John Shepp, a Rochester firefighter and EMT who coordinates CERT.

The five-day CERT training teaches volunteers basic disaster response skills — such as fire suppression, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, and team organization. At the end of the week, the training will give people a chance to put their knowledge to use with a disaster simulation session. Participants must attend all classes to receive certification.

Those interested can attend the training session for free, without an obligation to join the CERT team, according to Shepp.

“If people just want to come and receive the knowledge to be able to help themselves and their neighbors, they’re more than welcome — there is no requirement to join the team,” he said. “If they want to join the team, we’re happy to have them. There is no residency requirement.”

Those who choose to become a CERT team member will get certified in CPR and will participate in a number of other training workshops throughout the year.

The Rochester Fire Department is currently searching for people ages 18 and older who want to be better prepared for disasters and help the community by joining CERT.

“The CERT team is a citizen group of volunteers that are trained to help out in the event of a disaster or major problem. They are also utilized for special events and to help out our police and fire services in the city,” Shepp explained.

The city’s CERT team is modeled after the federal CERT program — which Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik said came about after 9/11, when the United States started looking at the types of dangers that could happen from terrorism or natural disasters. He said it was determined that police and fire services could become overwhelmed if not for the help of a pool of talented people municipalities could tap into in the event of an emergency.

“It’s a way to get local interested residents who might be able to help out in an emergency some basic training to go ahead and help fill in with the tasks that typically would be looked at as being for the emergency responders to free emergency responders up to be able to handle the more technical issues,” he said.

Since the program’s inception in 2012, the Rochester Fire Department has trained over 150 CERT members who have assisted with many major community events over the past few years — including the Art and Apples Festival; the Rochester Hometown Christmas Parade; Lagniappe; The Big, Bright Light Show; and many others. They have also assisted in various search-and-rescue operations in the area.

“Our CERT team is heavily utilized by our police and fire departments. You’ll see CERT at every one of the events downtown, doing everything from directing traffic to closing streets to walking pedestrians,” said Shepp.

“We really look to our CERT team to help out with passing out information, controlling traffic, being the eyes and ears of what’s going on at big events, being able to give basic first aid, and communicating the need for additional resources.” Cieslik added.

To register for the training or to get more information, contact John Shepp, course coordinator, at