originally posted on https://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/
Q: What is CERT?
A: The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic
disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical
operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in
their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to
help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in
emergency preparedness projects in their community.
Q: How does CERT benefit the community?
A: People who go through CERT training have a better understanding of the potential threats
to their home, workplace and community and can take the right steps to lessen the effects of these hazards on
themselves, their homes or workplace. If a disaster happens that overwhelms local response capability, CERT
members can apply the training learned in the classroom and during exercises to give critical support to
their family, loved ones, neighbors or associates in their immediate area until help arrives. When help does
arrive, CERTs provide useful information to responders and support their efforts, as directed, at the
disaster site. CERT members can also assist with non-emergency projects that improve the safety of the
community. CERTs have been used to distribute and/or install smoke alarms, replace smoke alarm batteries in
the home of elderly, distribute disaster education material, provide services at special events, such as
parades, sporting events, concerts and more.
Q: How we start a CERT program?
A: CERT requires a partnership between community members and local
government, emergency management and response agencies. The program does take a commitment of time and resources
from all parties. Interested community members should discuss with local government and emergency management
officials ways to improve their community's preparedness capability and how they can be involved. The outcome of
these discussions can range from education programs to an active training program like CERT that prepares
participants to be part of the community's response capability following major disasters. It is also important to
develop a plan that covers training, maintenance and activation standards as well as administrative requirements
like databases and funding. This plan will act as a guide so that one can evaluate the program and make
Q: Why take the CERT training?
A: Local government prepares for everyday emergencies. However, there can
be an emergency or disaster that can overwhelm the community's immediate response capability. While adjacent
jurisdictions, State and Federal resources can activate to help, there may be a delay for them getting to those who
need them. The primary reason for CERT training is to give people the decision-making, organizational, and
practical skills to offer immediate assistance to family members, neighbors, and associates while waiting for help.
While people will respond to others in need without the training, the goal of the CERT program is to help people do
so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.
A success story about CERTs comes from events during the wildfires in
Florida. The Edgewater CERT helped emergency management and the fire department personnel by assisting with
evacuation; handling donations; preparing food for firefighters; and answering the phone while the professionals
were fighting the fire. This is a great example of CERT members and response personnel working together for the
benefit of the community.
Q: Who can take the training
A: Naturals for the training are neighborhood watch, community
organizations, communities of faith, school staff, workplace employees, scouting organization and other groups that
come together regularly for a common purpose. CERT skills are useful in disaster and everyday life
Q: How do I take CERT training?
A: To become a CERT member, you will have to take the CERT training from a
sponsoring agency like an emergency management agency, fire department or police department in the area where you
live or work. Contact the local emergency manager where you live or work and ask about the education and training
opportunities available to you. Let this person know about your interest in CERT.
Q: What if I want to do more than just the basic training?A: CERT members
can increase their knowledge and capability by attending classes provided by other community agencies on animal
care, special needs concerns, donation management, community relations, shelter management, debris removal,
utilities control, advanced first aid, Automatic External Defibrillator use, CPR skills, and others. The sponsoring
agency should maintain records of this training and call upon CERT members when these additional skills are needed
in the community.
CERT member also can use their skills to help the program flourish by
volunteering to schedule events, produce a newsletter, perform administrative work, and take leadership
Q: How do CERT members maintain their skills?
A: CERT members and the local sponsoring agency work together to maintain
team skills and the working partnership. It is suggested that the sponsor conduct refresher classes and an annual
exercise where all CERT members are invited to participate. Some response agencies have conducted joint exercises
with CERT teams and operate as they would during an actual disaster. The last point does bring up a lesson learned.
Besides training CERT members, it is also important to educate members of response agencies in the community about
CERTs, the skills that team members have learned during training and the role that they will have during a major
disaster. One way to develop trust between CERT and responders is by encouraging agency personnel to participate in
classes as instructors and coaches and in activities with CERT members.Understanding that CERTs may operate
independently following a disaster. CERTs can practice this independence by taking some responsibility for their
own training. Teams can design activities and exercises for themselves and with other teams. Some members can be
rescuers, some victims, and some evaluators. After the event, there can be a social so that community teams can
discuss the exercise and get to know each other.
Q: Can someone under age 18 participate?
A: This is a local decision. Someone under 18 should be with a parent or
have permission to attend. Some communities have reached out specifically to young people. Winter Springs High
School in Florida offers the training to high school students. You can read an article about this. CERT is a great way to address the community service requirements for high school
students and provides students with useful skills. CERT also fits nicely with training given to Boy and Girl
Scouts and the Civil Air patrol.
Q: What if I have concerns about my age or physical ability?
A: There are many jobs within a CERT for someone who wants to be involved and help.
Following a disaster, CERT members are needed for documentation, comforting others, logistics, etc.
Non-disaster related team activities may include keeping databases, developing a website, writing a
newsletter, planning activities, helping with special events and organizing exercises and activities.During
CERT classroom training, if one has a concern about doing a skill like lifting, just let the instructor know.
You can learn from watching. We would like everyone who wants to go through the training to have an
opportunity to participate and learn the skills. CERT educates participants about local hazards and trains
them in skills that are useful during disaster and life's everyday emergencies.
Q: What about liability?
A: The text of the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997
is available for viewing. Also there is information about State Liability Lawslocated on the Citizen Corps website. During training, each sponsoring agency should brief its CERT
members about their responsibilities as a CERT member and volunteer. Finally, there
is a job aid on liabilityfor you to review in our Start a CERT Program section.The CERT material was developed by
the Los Angeles City Fire Department and adopted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1993. The CERT
manual contains basic and straightforward material that has been accepted by those using it as the standard
for training.It is important to remember that the best sources of help in emergencies are professional
responders. However, in situations when they are not immediately available, people will want to act and help.
We have seen this time and again in our history. CERT training teaches skills that people can use to safely
help while waiting for responders. The alternate is to do nothing and that is not in our