(WSVN) - As we head into another hurricane season, there’s a group of volunteers standing by to help if a storm hits our area. Karen Hensel introduces us to them in tonight’s 7 Spotlight.

When parts of Broward County ended up underwater during that massive rainstorm in April, some of the first emergency response work came from citizen volunteers who lived in the flooded neighborhoods.

Mark Miller, CERT Deputy Operations Chief: “So we have our people that are already in the field, and they’re calling in to the Emergency Operations Center saying, ‘Here’s what it’s like in Edgewater. Here’s what it’s like here. Here’s what’s going on there,’ so they’re tremendously important.”

Mark Miller helps run the Fort Lauderdale Community Emergency Response Team, also called CERT.

He is one of the hundreds of people who have volunteered to be on the front lines if a disaster strikes in South Florida.

Mark Miller: “We’re an adjunct to police and fire, basically, with additional manpower and medical training.”

CERT is a program that teaches local residents basic rescue skills.

Carol Sjursen, CERT manager: “CERT volunteers are taught and trained how to safely take care of themselves, their family, their neighbors, and then their community.”

Carol Sjursen has been a CERT member in Deerfield Beach for 20 years. She volunteered during the Surfside building collapse and helped Hurricane Ian survivors on Florida’s west coast.

Carol Sjursen: “We spent an entire week out there, sleeping on cots, sorting supplies that came in from the community and then getting those supplies out into the field.”

The reward for her hard work is the joy Carol gets from helping others, like the time she gave food and water to a desperate young mother.

Carol Sjursen: “She had tears in her eyes, and we were just like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is such a good feeling for us.’ You just can’t imagine how rewarding it is.”

It’s the same feeling for Mark. He traveled to North Florida after Hurricane Michael hit. He ended up in a small rural town called Mossy Pond.

Mark Miller: “And the only thing left in the community was the library, and that’s where everybody was living. This woman comes up and gives me a big hug and then says, ‘We are so glad to see you.'”

Both Carol and Mark say, if you have the time, you will never regret stepping in to help when people need it the most.

Mark Miller: “People say thank you, and you never get tired of that, but you never get tired of doing what it takes to earn that respect.”

Cities across Broward County are looking for new CERT members right now.

If there’s someone or something you think we should feature, send us an email at 7spotlight@wsvn.com.

And don’t forget, Sunday at 7 p.m., 7News will have everything you need to know about being storm ready. Be sure to tune in for 7News’ hurricane special “Surviving a Storm.”

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