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Taking Community Emergency Response Teams to the Next Level

As a former First Responder, Michael Ripley now serves as program manager for NBCUniversal's Community Emergency Reponse Team (CERT), providing prepardedness trainings to the community.

I am extremely honored and humbled to be selected as a White House Champion of Change and to represent NBCUniversal as the program manager for the company’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT.)  As an Emergency Manager and former First Responder, emergency preparedness, personal empowerment, and community engagement are principles I strongly believe in and have dedicated my professional life to. 

Time and again it has been demonstrated that public safety agencies quickly become overwhelmed in times of disasters, and that communities that have citizens who are well prepared and well trained fare better than those that don’t.  Disaster volunteers are vital in preparedness and empower ordinary citizens to take action in the event of an emergency. CERT programs provide training to ordinary citizens and allow them to care for themselves, their families and their neighbors during times of extreme crisis.  Emergency Managers from around the country have come to the realization that after a disaster, people want and need to volunteer, and that CERT programs are the key to making the most of the valuable resources that reside in every community.

NBCUniversal recognized the benefits that a CERT program could provide to the employees and the company and began its program in 1991.  The program has enjoyed steady growth since its inception and to date has trained over 1200 employees.  In 2006, I became the Disaster Response Manager for NBCUniversal and among my other responsibilities, I was placed in charge of managing the volunteer CERT program. From the beginning, I realized this group of volunteers was extremely talented, capable, and enthusiastic.   The group already had a solid set of skills, but was eager to acquire additional skills and training. As a team, we implemented several creative practices and innovative ideas to greater enhance the CERT team’s response, capabilities, efficiency and most importantly, safety for the team members.  Some of these cutting-edge practices include the development of a CERT focused staging area system which expedited team deployment and provided for personnel accountability, creation of a CERT Rapid Intervention Team, and development of a pediatric curriculum to supplement the basic CERT training. Many of the original concepts that were developed by our team have been shared with our community partners to support the overall CERT mission.

Another major effort that I have promoted with our CERT volunteers is the commitment to community involvement. Our CERT members take the knowledge and skills they learn in our program and share it with CERT teams in their home communities and those neighbors around our business.  Some of the efforts we have made include integrating neighboring community based CERT teams in our trainings and drills, conductingpreparedness fairs, supplementing other CERT teams during response, and encouraging members to contribute to their own communities. This leads to a cascading effect of preparedness for our business, our neighbors, and surrounding communities.

Our CERT team also allows us to form strong partnerships with our public agency partners by providing a basis for incorporating first responders, emergency management professionals, other businesses, and community stakeholders in trainings and preparedness activities. Developing public/private partnerships is crucial in the preparedness phase of Emergency Management and it allows us to prepare, train, and respond as a unified force during a disaster. 

I feel exceptionally fortunate to work with such an amazing group of individuals and to have thesupport of a company that cares deeply for its employees, guests, and the surrounding community.

NBCUniversal operates under the principles of Integrity, Creativity, and Team Work and these principles extend to our CERT program and account for much of its success.   Our company and its employees are dedicated to working together and to using our talents to shape the world, whether it be in the field of entertainment, or disaster preparedness.

Michael Ripley is Disaster Response Manager for NBCUniversal located in Universal City, California and serves on the board of directors for the California Emergency Services Association and the Business and Industry Council for Emergency Planning and Preparedness.