Published: Jun 28, 2013 5:27 PM EDT

CAPE CORAL, Fla. -  Depending on the size and scope of an emergency, first responders may not be able to reach you or your neighbors immediately. That's where you can help.

"We had a lot of wind, rain, very scary," recalled long-time Cape Coral resident Eileyn Sobeck-Bador about what happened on Friday, August 13, 2004.

"We did lose-- during Charley-- electricity for at least 10 days. That was a challenge," she remembered.

Also a challenge? Housing her friends from Punta Gorda, newlyweds who lost everything in the category 4 hurricane.

While Eileyn's family was prepared to weather the storm, she wasn't prepared for what came next.

"We were not expecting to go to Lowes and find the National Guard there. That was a shock. We were not prepared to have to wait weeks to get a generator," she explained.

Now, Eileyn is prepared for whatever happens before, during or after a storm. She's part of of Cape Coral's Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, for short. She, along with her husband, two friends, and her bank teller, signed up for a free training course to become CERT certified.

With the training she and her friends received, she is now prepared to assist first responders in emergency situations, whatever that emergency may be. And CERT volunteers in Cape Coral do everything from helping to run shelters, to fielding phone calls before a storm. After a storm, they can assist their neighbors.

"Our CERT volunteers are people who don't give of their money, they give of their time," explained Cape Coral Fire Chief Timothy Hayes. "We could not operate without these folks."

As for Eileyn, becoming CERT certified was a natural step for someone who enjoys helping her neighbors.

"This is at a level I think I will be a big benefit to someone in a time of crisis," she said.



To learn more about the CERT program, or to find a program in your area, click the following links.

CERT program


Find a program near you