Community Emergency Response Teams

History of the CERT Program

The concept of the CERT Program began in the mid-1980s when the Los Angeles Fire Department saw the need, in the event of a large-scale disaster, to train citizens on how to help others without putting themselves in harm’s way. FEMA formalized the CERT program in 1993 and the CERT program is now available nationwide. The CERT curriculum is taught from an all-hazards approach and each community emphasizes the disasters, both natural and manmade, to which they are most vulnerable. Although preparedness steps may vary from community to community, the goal remains the same: “to do the most good for the most amount of people” in an emergency, such as in the event of a natural disaster.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I take the CERT training, what am I obligating myself to do?
CERT is first and foremost an awareness-level disaster preparedness training. The priority is learning how to take care of yourself, your family, and your neighbors in an emergency. Responding as a CERT is voluntary. Once you have taken the 24-hour CERT training, you may choose to join a CERT team in your neighborhood, workplace or place of worship.

What can CERT teams do in an emergency?
Under the direction of local emergency responders, CERT teams help provide critical support by giving immediate assistance to victims, providing damage assessment information, and organizing other volunteers at a disaster site. In the event of a disaster, when resources are likely to be overwhelmed and professional response may be delayed, CERT teams can help “bridge the gap” until professional responders are able to arrive on scene.

Who is eligible to take CERT training?
Anyone age 18 and above. Children aged 15-17 years can take the training if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and will receive their CERT certification when they turn 18.

How does CERT help the community?
In addition to supporting emergency responders during a disaster, the CERT program builds strong working relationships between emergency responders and the people they serve. CERT teams also help the community year-round by helping with community emergency plans, neighborhood exercises, preparedness outreach, fire safety education, and workplace safety.

How much does the training cost?
CERT training is free and open to the community and is made possible by Homeland Security Grant funding.