CERT - Community Emergency Response Team

A CERT program is formed by members of a community, school or workplace in order to be better prepared for the hazards that their community may face. It is frequently sponsored or affiliated with a local emergency management agency, fire department or law enforcement agency.

The CERT program educates individuals about disaster preparedness for 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. Using training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT volunteers can assist others in their community following a disaster when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT volunteers are also encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking an active role in emergency preparedness projects.

The program is built on the training provided the City of Los Angeles Fire Department for earthquake preparedness that was started in 1985 and has been made available through out the country by FEMA since 1993.

The CERT Basic Course is delivered locally by a team of first responders, emergency managers and other qualified volunteers. 

  • 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.

A good overview of the program is available in a self-study format on the FEMA Emergency Management Institute web site. The course is IS-317, Introduction to Community Emergency Response Teams. Some of the training classes require this be completed before attending the first session.

CERT in Central Florida

I am a member of the Orange County, FL CERT team in the Horizon West area. Listed below are links to some of the local CERT  teams: