Community Emergency Response Team

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program designed to prepare individuals to help themselves, their family and their neighbors in the event of a disaster with a focus on the first 72 hours. This is done by educating them on the hazards they face in their community and by training them in lifesaving skills they may need to use in the event of a catastrophic event. CERTs may also give critical support to first responders in emergencies by providing immediate assistance to victims, managing utilities and small fires, organizing spontaneous volunteers and by collecting disaster intelligence. This all hazards training prepares members of the community, neighborhoods and workplaces to take a more active role in emergency planning for their area and to prepare themselves and others for disasters and emergencies.

The CERT concept was developed in 1985 by the Los Angeles City Fire Dept. They recognized that citizens would very likely be on their own during the early stages of a catastrophic disaster. Accordingly, the LAFD decided that some basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills would improve the ability of citizens to survive until emergency personnel could arrive. Today more than 38 states and foreign countries have instituted the CERT system.

CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference. CERT involves learning basic skills that are critical in a disaster situation when emergency services are not readily available.


CERT has been used to:

  1. Search for lost or kidnapped children
  2. Staff Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) and monitor events
  3. EOC security, assisting disabled visitors and provide minor first aid
  4. Manage spontaneous/convergent volunteers
  5. Assist Red Cross and other relief organizations


  1. Describe the types of hazards most likely to affect their homes and communities.
  2. Describe the function of CERT and their role in immediate response.
  3. Take steps to prepare themselves for disaster.
  4. Identify and reduce potential fire hazards in their home and workplace.
  5. Work as a team to apply basic fire suppression strategies, resources, and safety measures to extinguish a burning liquid.
  6. Apply techniques for opening airways, controlling bleeding, and treating shock.
  7. Conduct triage under emergency situations.
  8. Perform head to toe assessments.
  9. Select and set up a treatment area.
  10. Employ basic treatments for various wounds.
  11. Identify planning and size-up requirements for potential search and rescue situations.
  12. Describe the most common techniques for searching a structure.
  13. Use safe techniques for debris removal and victim extrication.
  14. Describe ways to protect rescuers during search and rescue.


The CERT training consists of 20 hours of instruction over an eight-week period. Classes are taught by emergency management responders, including firefighters, EMT’s and police from the community.

CERT’s do NOT:

Suppress large fires.
Enter structures that they consider heavily damaged and dangerous (e.g., leaning or moved from foundation).
Perform hazardous materials cleanup or respond to incidents involving radiological, chemical, or biological agents.
Perform medical, fire, or search and rescue operations beyond their level of training.
Activate or deploy unless called for in their procedures.

CERT’s are considered “Good Samaritans” and covered under the Volunteer Protection Act. CERT volunteers do not have any authority beyond serving as “Good Samaritan” when helping others.

When deployed appropriately, however, CERT’s can complement and enhance first-response capability in neighborhoods and workplaces by ensuring the safety of themselves and their families working outward to the neighborhood or office and beyond

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