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FACT SHEET:  Community Emergency Response Teams


The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program helps train people to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations in their communities. When emergencies occur, 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 concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985. FEMA made this training available nationally in 1993.  Since this time, CERT programs have been established in more than 340 communities in 45 states.

The CERT training program is a 20-hour course, typically delivered over a seven-week period. Training sessions cover disaster preparedness, disaster fire suppression, basic disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, and team operations.  The training also includes a disaster simulation in which participants practice skills that they learned throughout the course.  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, located in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Over the next two years, the CERT program aims to double the number of participants, with over 400,000 individuals completing the 20 plus hours of training. Train-the-Trainer sessions are being held in all 56 states and territories over the next year to expand the program throughout the United States.

In FY 2003, FEMA will provide over $19 million in grant funds to states and territories to be used to expand the CERT program through additional state-offered Train-the-Trainer courses as well as to help communities start CERT programs and expand existing teams.

The FY 2003 grant money is in addition to $17 million distributed through the FY 2002 supplemental appropriation.  

CERT teams remain active in the community before a disaster strikes, sponsoring events such as drills, neighborhood clean up, and disaster education fairs. Trainers offer periodic refresher sessions to CERT members to reinforce the basic training and to keep participants involved and practiced in their skills.  

CERT is a vital component of Citizen Corps, President Bush?s community-based initiative to engage citizens in homeland security and community and family preparedness through public education and outreach, training opportunities, and volunteer service.


CERT Programs Across the U.S.

Over 300 communities have listed their program on the CERT web site under the Directory of CERT Programs by state. To see if one is in your state or community, visit the CERT website.

CERT groups have been formed in communities, at businesses and even in schools.  For example, in Marysville, WA, the Marysville Middle School Student Emergency Response Team (SERT) members learn first aid, CPR, earthquake awareness and responses so that they are prepared to help the American Red Cross that will set up their headquarters at MMS in event of an emergency.  In addition, SERT members help in the accounting for students and staff during fire and earthquake drills.


Olathe CERT Members Join Johnson County Volunteer Effort

Several CERT groups in the Kansas City, KS area were involved in debris removal efforts following the devastating tornadoes that touched down in the area on May 4, 2003.  CERT volunteers joined volunteers from Olathe Firefighters, Olathe FD Explorer post, the Civil Air Patrol, HAM Radio Operators, team members and spontaneous citizen volunteers to help neighbors through a coordinated, massive clean up effort.

Initiated by Olathe Fire Captain Bill Schneider, volunteers headed to two sites on Saturday, May 10.  While their primary focus was in providing debris removal and clean up assistance, many CERT training topics were teaching points during this recovery effort, including team organization, disaster psychology, and medical support.