Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) helps train people to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations in their communities. When emergencies happen, CERT members can give critical support to first responders, provide immediate assistance to victims, and organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site. CERT members can also help with non-emergency projects that help improve the safety of the community. The CERT course is taught in the community by a trained team of first responders who have completed a CERT Train-the-Trainer course conducted by their state training office for emergency management, or FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI), located in Emmitsburg, Maryland. CERT training includes disaster preparedness, small fire suppression, basic disaster medical operations, and light search and rescue operations.
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Local government prepares for everyday emergencies. However, there are emergencies and disaster that can overwhelm the community’s immediate response capability. While adjacent jurisdictions, State and Federal resources can activate to help, that help may be delayed. The primary reason for CERT training is to give people the decision-making and physical skills to offer immediate assistance to family members, neighbors, and associates. While people will respond to others in need without the training, the goal of the CERT program is to help them do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.
A success story about CERTs comes during the wildfires in Florida. The Edgewater CERT helped emergency management and the fire department by assisting with evacuations, handling donations, preparing food for firefighters, and answering the phone while the professionals were fighting the fire. It is a great example of CERT members and response personnel working together for the benefit of the community.
CERT members and the sponsoring agency work together to maintain team skills. 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 CERTs 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 train members of response agencies about CERTs, the skills that teams have and the role that they will have during a major disaster.
Understanding that CERTs may operate independently following a disaster, CERTs can practice this independence by taking some responsibility for their training. Teams can design activities and exercises for themselves and with other teams.
CERT programs may also offer supplemental training according to community needs. Additional training may include:
CERT members might help with special projects like distributing preparedness material, or taking disaster shelter operations training.
View the full timeline on our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Origins page.