CERT teams practice life saving skills
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Community Emergency Response Team

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, which allows them to focus on more complex tasks. Through CERT, the capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters is built and enhanced.

Watch and share CERT in Action
Watch and share CERT in Action (30 seconds)

Since 1993, CERT has impacted communities across the country, building essentials skills and capabilities to prepare for and respond to any disaster. There are now CERT programs in all 50 states, including many tribal nations and U.S. territories; each unique to its community but all essential to building a Culture of Preparedness.

The CERT program was designed as a grassroots initiative and specifically structured so that the local and state program managers have the flexibility to form their programs in the way that best suits their communities. CERT volunteers are trained to respond safely, responsibly, and effectively to emergency situations, but they can also support their communities during non-emergency events as well. There are over 2,700 local CERT programs nationwide, with more than 600,000 individuals trained since CERT became a national program.

FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team Program trains volunteers to prepare for the types of disasters that their community may face. Through hands-on practice and realistic exercises, CERT members:

  • Learn how to safely respond to manmade and natural hazards

  • Help organize basic disaster response

  • Promote preparedness by hosting and participating in community events

  • Please contact your local emergency manager or FEMA at FEMA-Prepare@fema.dhs.gov

FEMA Citizen Responder

Registering your CERT program, or joining a local CERT through the FEMA Citizen Responder website will better connect you to opportunities to participate in preparedness activities and initiatives that support disaster resilience. Through the FEMA Citizen Responder site you can register a CERT program, join a local CERT and learn about a upcoming events. 

Background

The CERT concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985. The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Further, it confirmed the need for training civilians to meet their immediate needs.

Since 1993 when this training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training. FEMA supports CERT by conducting or sponsoring Train-the-Trainer and Program Manager courses for members of the fire, medical and emergency management community.

Training & Materials

This section includes all of the curriculum developed for the CERT program, and features instructor guides, participant manuals, and slide decks for conducting the CERT training. In addition to the basic CERT training, materials are also available for the CERT Train-the-Trainer and Program Manager Courses, as well as the CERT supplemental modules, which are intended to provide additional training in specific areas to participants who have already completed the basic course.

Course Overview

The CERT Basic Course is delivered in the community by a team of first responders, and other qualified volunteers. The organization and timing of training and meeting varies from program to program. It is often broken up into two to four hour blocks over a series of evenings or weekends. 

  • Disaster Preparedness: Addresses hazards specific to the community. Materials cover actions that participants and their families take before, during and after a disaster as well as an overview of CERT and local laws governing volunteers.
  • Fire Suppression: Covers fire chemistry, hazardous materials, fire hazards and fire suppression strategies. However, the thrust of this session is the safe use of fire extinguishers, controlling utilities and extinguishing a small fire.
  • Medical Operations Part I: Participants practice diagnosing and treating airway obstruction, bleeding and shock by using simple triage and rapid treatment techniques.
  • Medical Operations Part II: Covers evaluating patients by doing a head to toe assessment, establishing a medical treatment area and performing basic first aid.
  • Light Search and Rescue Operations: Participants learn about search and rescue planning, size-up, search techniques, rescue techniques and rescuer safety.
  • Psychology and Team Organization: Covers signs and symptoms that might be experienced by the disaster victim and workers, and addresses CERT organization and management.
  • Course Review and Disaster Simulation: Participants review and practice the skills that they have learned during the previous six sessions in a disaster activity.

During each session participants are required to bring safety equipment (gloves, goggles, mask) and disaster supplies (bandages, flashlight, dressings) which will be used during the session. By doing this for each session, participants are building a disaster response kit of items that they will need during a disaster.

Training Materials

FEMA IS-317: Introduction to CERT (Online)

"Introduction to Community Emergency Response Teams," IS-317, is an independent study course that serves as an introduction to CERT for those wanting to complete training or as a refresher for current team members. It takes between six and eight hours to complete the course. Those who successfully finish it will receive a certificate of completion. It has six modules with topics that include:

  • Introduction to CERT
  • Fire Safety
  • Hazardous Material and Terrorist Incidents
  • Disaster Medical Operations
  • Search
  • Rescue

IS-317 can be taken by anyone interested in CERT. However, to become a CERT volunteer, one must complete the classroom training offered by a local government agency such as the emergency management agency, fire or police department. Contact your local emergency manager to learn about the local education and training opportunities available to you. Let this person know about your interest in taking CERT training.
Click here to take the course.

CERT Basic Training Course Materials

English CERT materials

Spanish CERT materials

CERT Train-the-Trainer Course Materials

CERT Program Manager Course Materials

CERT Supplemental Training

Video Materials

This section includes the eight downloadable CERT Training Videos for the CERT basic training and the CERT Train-the-Trainer courses, as well as the CERT in Action Video. All videos include closed captioning, and transcripts are available for each. This section also includes links to the Teen CERT videos.

Unit 2: Fire Safety: The CERT Member's Role

This training video covers the basics of fire size up, use of extinguishers and fire safety. Fires are dangerous and can change quickly. As in all CERT operations, the CERT members safety is always the number one priority. Safety measures presented in the video include use of protective gear and the proper equipment to extinguish small fires, working with a buddy and a team, planning for safe entry and exit, maintaining a safe distance and position from a fire and using the P.A.S.S. procedure to operate fire extinguishers.

Unit 3: CERT Triage: Handling Mass Casualty Situations

Disaster Medical Operations Part 1. CERT trainers will be able to use the material presented in the video to start a dialogue about the potential challenges CERT members may face.
Medical triage is the key to doing the most good for the most people whenever there are more victims than rescuers, resources are limited and time is critical. This training video provides an overview of the medical triage process and portrays the steps that CERT members need to follow to provide victims the most effective lifesaving support available until professional responders arrive on scene. This video will support the materials presented in the CERT Basic Training course.

Unit 5: Safety in the After-Disaster Environment

Light Search and Rescue Operations. CERT trainers will be able to use the materials presented in this video to start a dialogue about the potential challenges CERT members may face.
CERT members can prepare to work in a post-disaster area by understanding more about the potential hazards, by preparing their own safety kit and by wearing the right gear. The purpose of this training video is to prepare the CERT members for the kinds of hazards they may experience after a disaster and to help them stay safe as they work in the disaster area. This video will support the materials presented in the CERT Basic Training course

Unit 6: CERT in Action

CERT trainers will be able to use the video to start a dialogue about CERTs use of ICS and other critical features of successful team operations.
In CERT in Action, a fierce storm has struck the local community. CERT members activate in their neighborhood, set up an Incident Command Post and assess damage throughout the area. They use their CERT skills to respond to damage and injured victims in the local community center, managing the situation until professional responders are able to arrive. This video provides a useful introduction to the CERT concept for new program participants and others who may be interested in the program.

Demonstrating Victim Carries

Lt. Gregg Karl of the Arlington County, Virginia, Fire Department demonstrates three different types of victim carries to a class of CERT trainees. This video is recommended for use in the CERT Train-the-Trainer course to demonstrate effective instructional techniques for teaching victim carries.

Demonstrating Head-to-Toe Assessment

Lt. Byron Dixon of the Arlington County, Virginia, Fire Department demonstrates a head-to-toe assessment for a class of CERT trainees. This video is recommended for use in the CERT Train-the-Trainer course to demonstrate effective instructional techniques for teaching head-to-toe assessments.

Coaching Hands-On Practice - Victim Extrication

Lt. Gregg Karl of the Arlington County, Virginia, Fire Department walks a group of CERT trainees through a cribbing and leveraging exercise. This video is recommended for use in the CERT Train-the-Trainer course to demonstrate effective instructional techniques for teaching victim extrication.

CERT Training: Disaster Psychology

CERT participants, trained to support the first responders during a disaster, will be challenged in many ways during and after response operations. However, if CERT members are prepared for the stress, they will be more successful and helpful during the event and more able to rebound when the crisis is over. This training video provides an overview of stress reactions and strategies for dealing with people under stress during a disaster, including the needs of disaster workers themselves.

Drills and Exercises

Drills are excellent opportunities for CERT programs to practice, assess and improve emergency response plans and on-the-ground operations while engaging their volunteers and refreshing the concepts and skills learned in CERT training.

These exercises were developed according to national guidance and principles outlined by the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program. It is important that CERT programs tailor their exercises to reflect realistic events that may impact their community to practice skills they need to test or practice most.

Teen CERT

For local CERT program managers and others who want to establish and maintain CERT training for teens, there are a number of tools at your disposal.

Description

The below links are from various communities involved in Teen CERT. Note that FEMA does not necessarily endorse the views expressed or the facts presented on these links. FEMA does not endorse any commercial products that may be advertised or on this site.

Campus CERT

Campus CERT programs are designed to operate on any type of college or university campus. A college or university campus often functions as a “city within a city,” and often has its own emergency management capabilities. A Campus CERT program can support and enhance existing capabilities, and CERT volunteers can participate in efforts to increase the preparedness and resilience of the on-campus community.
The Campus CERT Starter Guide is designed to assist anyone interested in starting a Campus CERT program, whether that person is a campus safety staff member, a faculty member, a student, or another member of the campus community.

Workplace CERT

Workplace CERT programs are designed to operate in any type of workplace environment. A Workplace CERT program can support and enhance existing capabilities, and CERT volunteers can participate in efforts to increase the preparedness and resilience of the workplace and community. A Workplace CERT program equips employees with skills that enable them to perform basic disaster response operations in an emergency.
The Workplace CERT Starter Guide is designed to assist the individual or team responsible for planning and implementing CERT in your workplace. Each Workplace CERT program will be unique to the specific needs of the workplace it serves. This guide should be a reference rather than a prescriptive how-to manual for starting a Workplace CERT program.

The CERT Liability Guide is offered for general informational purposes only, and is intended to educate CERT program managers, volunteers, sponsoring agencies, and legal advisors about liability and risk management.