Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers are “the help until help arrives”. Volunteers are trained in disaster preparedness and response that is unique to their communities. They provide critical support to first responders that allow for immediate assistance to victims during emergencies.
CERT volunteers are trained to address emergency support tasks, like checking homes after an evacuation and organizing spontaneous volunteers at disaster sites. By providing this needed support, professional responders are able to focus on more dangerous and critical tasks.
The CERT concept was developed by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985 and then made available across the country by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1993. The program continues to be managed nationally by FEMA, providing a consistent approach to training and organizing volunteers that first responders can rely on. Additionally, it is designed to allow for local and state program managers to tailor their programs to meet the needs of their communities.
The official CERT course is 20 hours and is broken into sections focused on: Preparedness, Fire and Safety Suppression, Disaster Medical Operations, Search and Rescue, CERT Organization, Psychology, Terrorism, and Review and Simulation.
Get Involved with CERT in Your Community
As a CERT volunteer, you may encounter a number of real-life scenarios. Here are just a few examples reported by volunteers:
- Provide perimeter security during a wildfire
- Set up and manage evacuation shelters
- Clear beach and storm surge zones
- Help with first aid stations during large events
- Assist with search and rescue efforts for a missing child
There are now CERT programs in all 50 states, including tribal nations and US territories. More than 600,000 volunteers have been trained since it became a national program. If you’re looking for additional ways to make a difference in your community, search for CERT programs near you to learn more about local opportunities.