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PR- 016-11
January 13, 2011


New Emergency Preparedness Award Honors the Late John D. Solomon

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today joined New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno, Fire (FDNY) Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, Police (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford in presiding over a graduation ceremony for 122 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers. The new graduates completed an intensive, 10-week training program in disaster preparedness and basic emergency response skills. The Mayor also announced the creation of the John D. Solomon Emergency Preparedness Award, which will be presented annually to a CERT member who shows outstanding dedication to the program, and who embodies John Solomon’s enthusiasm for volunteerism and purposeful engagement to make their communities better prepared for emergencies. John Solomon was an active member of the Upper East Side CERT team who passed away in November, 2010.

“The newest members of the CERT team are an integral part of our emergency preparedness efforts,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “CERT team members are a direct connection to the people of New York and the new members graduating today will help us protect our city during future emergency events.”

“This is our 16th CERT class, and each time we hold a graduation ceremony I am reminded just how dedicated these volunteers are to their communities,” said Commissioner Bruno. “Whether they are asked to dig out fire hydrants after a blizzard or deliver ice to their neighbors during a power outage, CERT volunteers have shown time and time again that they are ready to help out at a moment’s notice, and we are extremely grateful for their service.”

"The Community Emergency Response Team plays a significant role in keeping neighborhoods throughout New York City safe," Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano said. "This ground-breaking program empowers volunteers to help their neighbors. Just a few weeks ago, for example, they were helping clear fire hydrants during the blizzard. This is a successful program and we're proud to be part of it."

“CERT graduates epitomize the spirit of volunteerism that manifested itself so magnificently on 9/11 and in its aftermath. It's only fitting that in advance of the 10th anniversary of the attack, we celebrate the graduation of individuals who are better prepared than ever to lend a hand in an emergency,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly.

“Without the spirit of civic engagement and volunteerism we won’t be able to address all of the challenges that face our City,” said Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford. “NYC Service exists to capture that spirit and channel it to its most productive use, and we are fortunate to have so many CERT volunteers who want to give their time to help their neighbors in emergencies. Their actions will make our City a better and safer place to live.”

In addition to presiding over the graduation ceremony, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Bruno also announced the creation of a new emergency preparedness award to honor the late John D. Solomon. Solomon was an active member of his team on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He made emergency preparedness his life’s work and labored tirelessly to involve the community in his preparedness efforts. In addition to being an active CERT member, Solomon maintained a preparedness blog, had begun work on a family preparedness book, and wrote several newspaper articles on the topic. Throughout his illness he remained steadfast in his dedication to raise awareness of the need to prepare our families, neighbors, workplaces, and communities for all hazards.

The John D. Solomon Emergency Preparedness Award will be presented annually to a CERT member who shows outstanding dedication to the program, and who embodies Solomon’s enthusiasm for volunteerism and purposeful engagement to make their communities better prepared for emergencies.

CERT in New York City

The New York City CERT program started in 2003 with 106 volunteers. Today, the City has 56 CERT teams and more than 1,400 volunteers representing all five boroughs. New York City CERT volunteers participate in a 10-week training program in disaster preparedness and basic emergency response skills taught by active and retired personnel from the Police and Fire Departments. After completing training that includes lessons in fire safety, search and rescue, first aid and triage, CERTs support their local communities by assisting City agencies that prepare for and respond to emergencies. CERT volunteers also work to educate their communities about emergency preparedness through OEM’s Ready New York campaign.

New York City CERT members have a demonstrated history of assisting the city with response and preparedness outreach whenever they are called upon. In 2010, CERT volunteers logged over 22,000 hours of service. Recently, CERT volunteers assisted their communities by clearing fire hydrants and providing safety information to their neighbors during the December blizzard. During the aftermath of the September tornadoes, CERT volunteers assisted with traffic control and participated in damage assessment surveys. In 2010, they served as interpreters at a fire in Chinatown that displaced more than 200 people. And, during heat wave last summer, CERTs worked with Con Ed to distribute dry ice.

In addition to assisting first responders during emergencies, CERT volunteers play an important role in community events and emergency trainings and exercises. In 2010, CERT members were deployed to assist with the Five Boro Bike Tour where they directed traffic around designated rest areas. Last summer, they also worked at the Department of Transportation’s Summer Streets program to assist with traffic control and to administer basic first aid. In addition, CERT volunteers also assisted organizers and players during the four-day National Wheelchair Softball Tournament, which earned them special recognition in the award for Best Special Event with the Department of Parks and Recreation for 2010. In October, CERT members participated in a multi-agency exercise to test the City’s emergency response to a simulated mass casualty incident.

New York City’s CERT program was also called to assist in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. President Clinton and former FEMA Director James Lee Witt recommended establishing a CERT program to the Haitian government after traveling to the country on series of fact-finding missions. Early last summer, Witt’s firm, James Lee Witt Associates, requested New York City CERT instructors lead the first classes in Haiti. In June, New York City sent an 11-member team of CERT instructors to Port-au-Prince Haiti where they trained more than 400 Haitian volunteers in basic emergency response skills during a two week deployment. After the training, the Haitian CERT volunteers established teams and deployed them at the Petionville Club, a former golf course that now houses more than 50,000 people displaced by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck near Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010.

The CERT concept was first developed in 1985 by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department, which recognized citizens would likely be on their own during the early stages of a disaster. The Los Angeles CERT training proved to be so beneficial that FEMA decided the program should be made available to communities across the United States. In 1994, FEMA and the Los Angeles Fire Department expanded the CERT curriculum. And, in 2003, FEMA’s Citizen Corps Council adopted CERT as a primary way to encourage people to volunteer to make their communities safer, stronger and better prepared to respond to emergencies. There are currently more than 3,500 active CERT programs in the United States.

In New York City, the CERT program is a collaborative effort between OEM and the NYPD, FDNY and Health Department. For more information about the CERT program, or if you are interested in becoming a CERT volunteer, call 311 or visit The next round of CERT training will begin in late February.


Stu Loeser/ Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

Chris Gilbride/ Seth Andrews   (Office of Emergency Management)
(718) 422-4888


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