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Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)

The CERT program educates local people in the community about disaster preparedness. Basic skills such as fire safety light search and rescue, disaster medical operations and team organization. CERT members are trained and exercise so that they can assist other professional responders during a disaster.

History of CERT

Los Angeles City Fire Department developed and implemented the concept of The Community Emergency Response Team in 1985. During the Whittier Narrows earthquake of 1987 that produced wide area threat of a major disaster confirmed the need for civilians to be trained to meet their immediate needs.

Since then the CERT program has been adopted by many communities around the United States. The training program has been recognized by and The National Fire Academy have all adopted and expanded CERT materials that are applicable to all hazards.


The CERT course is facilitated in the community by a team of first responders who have the knowledge and skills to instruct the sessions. It is suggested that the instructors complete a CERT Train-the-Trainer (TTT) conducted by their State Training Office for Emergency Management or the Emergency Management Institute in order to learn the proper training techniques.

An introduction to Community Emergency Response Teams is IS-317.

The CERT training for community groups is 2 ½ hours, one evening a week over a 7 week period. Downloadable training materials can be found on the website.

Participants are required to bring safety equipment such as gloves, goggles, a mask and disaster supplies. Bandages, flashlight and dressing used during the session. The goal is for each participant is to build a disaster response kit of items that they will need during a disaster.

Starting a CERT

  • Identify program goals and resources available
  • Partner with Local Emergency Planning Committees
  • Identify and recruit potential members
  • Train CERT instructors
  • CERT sessions
  • Refresher training along with exercises with other groups of first responders

Maintaining Involvement

It is important to keep interest and involvement along with recognition for their abilities. Trainers should offer refresher sessions and sponsor events such as disaster education fairs, neighborhood clean-up or picnics to keep them involved.

CERT is about community readiness, people helping their neighbors and assisting the professional responders. Through training they can learn to manage utilities, put out small fires, rescue victims safely, perform the ABC’s of first aid and organize themselves and other volunteers to help out during an emergency.

Follow this link Community Emergency Response Teams for more information and to find a team in your area.