“Emergency Response Team” responds to no emergencies

Posted at 10:19 PM, May 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-08 22:19:33-04

Norfolk, Va. - Norfolk's Community Emergency Response Team -- a group of specially trained citizens -- has spent more than $100,000 in the past five years but, according to a NewsChannel 3 investigation, has responded to no emergencies.

NewsChannel 3 started asking questions about Norfolk's CERT because it was the only one in the region to report no emergency activations to the state's emergency-management division. At the same time Norfolk CERT tallied the region's third-highest amount of grant money. Our investigation found out there were no deployments listed in the state database because Norfolk does not report any CERT training or activation to the state. CERT leaders say reporting is voluntary and they choose not to.

That lack of reporting also makes it difficult to gauge what taxpayers are getting for the grant money. For our story, the city did compile a list showing the team activities since 2011, when the state took over CERT administration. But nearly all of the events listed were ones that could be handled by volunteers with no special training, like handing out ice on hot days or dispensing water at running races. The only event of any urgency NewsChannel 3 could identify from the records was for Hurricane Sandy when team members staffed a pet shelter.

NewsChannel 3 spent more than $230 obtaining other city documents under the state's open-records act to see how the team spends the grants. This investigation airs Tuesday at 5.