Neighborhood volunteers form emergency response teams in Bay area in case of disasters

150K people added to evacuation zone in Bay area
Posted at 5:02 PM, Jun 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-20 17:02:59-04

Around 150,000 people have recently been added to an evacuation zone in Hillsborough County and most of those residents were not in one before. 

Evacuation zones are based on hurricane storm surge possibilities determined by the National Hurricane Center, which assesses ground elevation and other factors that can influence an area's vulnerability. 

As part of the new maps, a group of volunteers are trying to spread the word to their neighbors through a program through FEMA. 

CERT stands for 'community emergency response team' --  that is formed in neighborhoods around the country in hopes of training communities about how to respond to a disaster when professional help is not immediately available.

The program's website explains trained professionals educate people about basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations.

CERT is not a new program, however, local communities in the area are trying to expand their reach, by reaching out to more communities.

Dale Peery, a volunteer, helped kick start the Big Bend CERT program, and he's working to expand to the South Hillsborough County area including Riverview, Lithia, and Valrico areas. 

To see how their community started their program, see here.

Right now, they have around 80 volunteers, and they go door-to-door with updated evacuation zone maps. They also use their HOA bulletins to inform neighbors of the program.

Along with being a government program, CERT works with the local counties to help expand their programs.

"We have folks certified by FEMA to train," said Peery, "there's a strict curriculum and we have to train to that standard, which is good because we want to make sure everyone has the basic skills."

CERT is part of communities across the country, to see if there's one near you, go to and search for CERT programs by zip code.

The Hillsborough County Emergency Management team recently updated brochures with their Disaster Planning Guide that states your evacuation zone may have changed this year. You can find that online, or pick up a brochure at any post office, library, government office or participating Publix store. 

The 2017 guides that residents can find can be found at

Keep in mind the evacuation zones is not the same as flood zones. 

HCFL Alert is designed to keep residents and visitors informed about emergencies and non emergency events in the county. 

To see if you are in the new evacuation zone in Hillsborough County: click here.