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PR- 059-13
February 11, 2013


Graduation Marks 10th Anniversary of NYC CERT Program

Third Annual John D. Solomon Emergency Preparedness Award Presented to Ramona Ponce, CERT Team Chief for Manhattan 10 South in Harlem

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today joined Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno, Police (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Fire (FDNY) Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano and the City’s Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford in presiding over a graduation ceremony for 103 new Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers. The graduates recently completed an intensive, 10-week training program in disaster preparedness and basic emergency response skills. Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Bruno also presented Ramona Ponce, a CERT Team Chief, with the third annual John D. Solomon NYC CERT Award for Exemplary Service in Emergency Preparedness Education. The award was introduced two years ago to honor the late John D. Solomon, a CERT member who labored tirelessly to involve his community in preparedness efforts. The CERT graduation took place at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens.

“CERT members volunteered throughout the Hurricane Sandy response and recovery efforts, even when their own homes suffered severe damage from the storm,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “That’s the kind of dedication that really defines CERT volunteers. You are our most direct connection to communities in times of crisis, and you are a vitally important part of helping us prepare New Yorkers before a crisis starts.”

“I would like to congratulate and thank the graduating class of CERT volunteers for their commitment to service,” said Commissioner Bruno. “CERT launched 10 years ago with 106 members and today the program is over 1,200 volunteers strong. These volunteers devote their personal time to educate the public about emergency preparedness and to protect the safety of their neighbors.”

“CERT volunteers embody the spirit of service and civic dedication that police and partner agencies are built upon,” said Commissioner Kelly. “Their support of first responders helps to keep New York City moving and thriving in the face of disaster.”

“Time after time – for large scale events that bring this city together – and during difficult emergencies that threaten lives and property, Community Emergency Response Team members volunteer their time providing important support when needed most,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano. “CERT members are a tremendous asset to all first responders and truly make a difference in their communities.”

            In 2011, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Bruno introduced a new emergency preparedness award to honor the late John D. Solomon, a CERT member who made emergency preparedness his life’s work. Solomon was an active member of his team on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. He also maintained a preparedness blog, had begun work on a family preparedness book, and wrote several newspaper articles on the topic. Throughout his illness Solomon remained steadfast in his dedication to raising awareness of the need to prepare our families, neighbors, workplaces, and communities for all hazards. The John D. Solomon NYC CERT Award for Exemplary Service in Emergency Preparedness Education is presented annually to a CERT member who embodies John’s enthusiasm for volunteerism and purposeful engagement to make their communities better prepared for emergencies. Solomon’s widow, Abby, joined Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Bruno in presenting this year’s award to CERT Team Chief Ramona Ponce.

Ramona Ponce, Team Chief for Manhattan 10 South in Harlem, joined the NYC CERT program in 2006. She has been a resource to other CERT teams and members throughout the City by providing on-site Ready New York presenter training, thereby increasing the number of CERT members who are able to provide community disaster preparedness presentations. On a larger level, she has also contributed to the CERT program through her additional involvement in many projects, including planning citywide CERT preparedness events and representing CERT in the City’s Emergency Operations Center during events such as Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy. 

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) in New York City

The New York City CERT program started in 2003 with 106 volunteers. Today, the City has 54 CERT teams and more than 1,200 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 members of 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. Recently, more than 600 CERT members logged over 20,000 hours of volunteer service during Hurricane Sandy. For example, prior to the storm CERT members on Staten Island canvassed neighborhoods in Zone A reminding residents that they were in an evacuation zone. During the storm CERT members supported the Healthcare Facility Evacuation Center by staffing its call center at OEM. Members also staffed shelters, OEM’s logistic center, and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). After the storm, CERT members reported to distribution sites to hand out water and food. They also assisted with pumping fuel from tankers at Floyd Bennett Field and in the Rockaways to get fuel to emergency vehicles and storm-damaged areas.

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.

The next round of CERT training will begin in late February. For more information about the CERT program, or if you are interested in becoming a CERT volunteer, call 311 or visit


Marc La Vorgna/John J. McCarthy   (212) 788-2958

Christopher Miller (OEM)   (718) 422-4888


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