Frequently Asked Questions
- Question: What is CERT?
- Answer: The Community Emergency Response Team
(CERT) Program educates people 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 the training
learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can
assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event
when professional responders are not immediately available to help.
CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response
agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness
projects in their community. The About CERT section of this site
gives you a complete description of CERT.
- Question: How does CERT benefit the community?
- Answer: People who go through CERT training have a
better understanding of the potential threats to their home,
workplace and community and can take the right steps to lessen the
effects of these hazards on themselves, their homes or workplace. If
a disaster happens that overwhelms local response capability, CERT
members can apply the training learned in the classroom and during
exercises to give critical support to their family, loved ones,
neighbors or associates in their immediate area until help arrives.
When help does arrive, CERTs provide useful information to
responders and support their efforts, as directed, at the disaster
site. CERT members can also assist with non-emergency projects that
improve the safety of the community. CERTs have been used to
distribute and/or install smoke alarms, replace smoke alarm
batteries in the home of elderly, distribute disaster education
material, provide services at special events, such as parades,
sporting events, concerts and more.
- Question: Is there a CERT near me?
- Answer: Over 1100 communities and growing have
listed their program on the CERT web site under the Directory of
CERT Programs by State. You can check the State Directory to see if
one is in your community. There also is a web site maintained by Los
Angeles City CERT volunteers that has a listing of “Other Team
- Question: How do we start a CERT program?
- Answer: CERT requires a partnership between
community members and local government, emergency management and
response agencies. The program does take a commitment of time and
resources from all parties. Interested community members should
discuss with local government and emergency management officials
ways to improve their community’s preparedness capability and how
they can be involved. The outcome of these discussions can range
from education programs to an active training program like CERT that
prepares participants to be part of the community’s response
capability following major disasters. It is also important to
develop a plan that covers training, maintenance and activation
standards as well as administrative requirements like databases and
funding. This plan will act as a guide so that one can evaluate the
program and make adjustments.
- Question: How is the CERT funded?
- Answer: Congress has provided funds through the
Citizen Corps program to the States and Territories. Grants from
these funds may be available to local communities to start CERT
programs. Contact your State Citizen Corps point of contact to learn
more about grant possibilities.
Also, there are a variety of local approaches to funding. Some
communities build costs into their local budget while others charge
participants to attend training to cover costs for instructors and
course materials. In a few communities, CERT organizations have
formed 501 (C) 3 for non-profit status to allow them to do
fundraising and seek corporate donations.
- Question: Why take the CERT training?
- Answer: Local government prepares for everyday
emergencies. However, there can be an emergency or disaster that can
overwhelm the community’s immediate response capability. While
adjacent jurisdictions, State and Federal resources can activate to
help, there may be a delay for them getting to those who need them.
The primary reason for CERT training is to give people the
decision-making, organizational, and practical skills to offer
immediate assistance to family members, neighbors, and associates
while waiting for help. While people will respond to others in need
without the training, the goal of the CERT program is to help people
do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in
A success story about CERTs comes from events during the wildfires
in Florida. The Edgewater CERT helped emergency management and the
fire department personnel by assisting with evacuation; handling
donations; preparing food for firefighters; and answering the phone
while the professionals were fighting the fire. This is a great
example of CERT members and response personnel working together for
the benefit of the community.
- Question: Who can take the training?
- Answer: Naturals for the training are neighborhood
watch, community organizations, communities of faith, school staff,
workplace employees, scouting organization and other groups that
come together regularly for a common purpose. CERT skills are useful
in disaster and everyday life events.
- Question: How do I take CERT training?
- Answer: To become a CERT member, you will have to
take the CERT training from a sponsoring agency like an emergency
management agency, fire department or police department in the area
where you live or work. Contact the local emergency manager where
you live or work and ask about the education and training
opportunities available to you. Let this person know about your
interest in CERT.
- Question: What if I want to do more than just the
- Answer: CERT members can increase their knowledge
and capability by attending classes provided by other community
agencies on animal care, special needs concerns, donation
management, community relations, shelter management, debris removal,
utilities control, advanced first aid, Automatic External
Defibrillator use, CPR skills, and others. The sponsoring agency
should maintain records of this training and call upon CERT members
when these additional skills are needed in the community.
CERT member also can use their skills to help the program flourish
by volunteering to schedule events, produce a newsletter, perform
administrative work, and take leadership positions.
- Question: How do CERT members maintain their
- Answer: CERT members and the local sponsoring
agency work together to maintain team skills and the working
partnership. It is suggested that the sponsor conduct refresher
classes and an annual exercise where all CERT members are invited to
participate. Some response agencies have conducted joint exercises
with CERT teams and operate as they would during an actual disaster.
The last point does bring up a lesson learned. Besides training CERT
members, it is also important to educate members of response
agencies in the community about CERTs, the skills that team members
have learned during training and the role that they will have during
a major disaster. One way to develop trust between CERT and
responders is by encouraging agency personnel to participate in
classes as instructors and coaches and in activities with CERT
Understanding that CERTs may operate independently following a
disaster. CERTs can practice this independence by taking some
responsibility for their own training. Teams can design activities
and exercises for themselves and with other teams. Some members can
be rescuers, some victims, and some evaluators. After the event,
there can be a social so that community teams can discuss the
exercise and get to know each other.
- Question: Can someone under age 18 participate?
- Answer: This is a local decision. Someone under 18
should be with a parent or have permission to attend. Some
communities have reached out specifically to young people. Winter
Springs High School in Florida offers the training to high school
students. You can read an article about this. CERT is a great way to
address the community service requirements for high school students
and provides students with useful skills. CERT also fits nicely with
training given to Boy and Girl Scouts and the Civil Air patrol.
- Question: What if I have concerns about my age or
- Answer: There are many jobs within a CERT for
someone who wants to be involved and help. Following a disaster,
CERT members are needed for documentation, comforting others,
logistics, etc. Non-disaster related team activities may include
keeping databases, developing a website, writing a newsletter,
planning activities, helping with special events and organizing
exercises and activities.
During CERT classroom training, if one has a concern about doing a
skill like lifting, just let the instructor know. You can learn from
watching. We would like everyone who wants to go through the
training to have an opportunity to participate and learn the skills.
CERT educates participants about local hazards and trains them in
skills that are useful during disaster and life’s everyday
- Question: What about liability?
- Answer: The text of the Volunteer Protection Act of
1997 is available for viewing. Also there is information about State
Liability Laws located on the Citizen Corps website. During
training, each sponsoring agency should brief its CERT members about
their responsibilities as a CERT member and volunteer. Finally,
there is a job aid on liability for you to review in our Start a
CERT Program section.
The CERT material was developed by the Los Angeles City Fire
Department and adopted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in
1993. The CERT manual contains basic and straightforward material
that has been accepted by those using it as the standard for
It is important to remember that the best sources of help in
emergencies are professional responders. However, in situations when
they are not immediately available, people will want to act and
help. We have seen this time and again in our history. CERT training
teaches skills that people can use to safely help while waiting for
responders. The alternate is to do nothing and that is not in our