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The Community Emergency Response Team concept was in response to the realization that citizens would likely be on their own in the early stages following a large-scale disaster.  CERT is a critical program whose mission is to engage Americans to make their communities safer, to prepared them, and make them more resilient when incidents occur.

A Community Emergency Response Team is an organized and trained group of citizens that can respond and assist community members in emergency situations. They are trained in search and rescue, recovery, and triage. CERT personnel can provide immediate assistance following an emergency or disaster, and continue supporting fire, police, doctors, and other relief organizations once they arrive.

The original concept of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was developed by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985, due to the threat of continuing earthquakes. Later in 1994 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expanded the scope to apply to all hazards. FEMA then made the program available to all communities nationwide. Citizens Corps was launched following the events of September 11th, 2001, as a grassroots effort to increase civic participation, in order to strengthen community safety and preparedness.

Community based preparedness planning is an important piece of the comprehensive planning and coordination with all agencies to effectively respond to potential hazards and threats following an emergency or disaster.  The CERT program is an effective means to train individuals, and make them assets to help their communities prepare for effective disaster response.  Community Emergency Response Teams overall will enhance the ability of neighborhoods to manage their existing resources until professional assistance can arrive.

Behavioral studies have shown that following an emergency or disaster, those who worked together in a group, were more effective when prior planning and training had occurred. When these groups were woven into the social and political fabric of their communities, such as, schools, workplaces, neighborhood associations, places of worship, and other local organizations, the studies show them to be even more effective.

CERT is an important program for every community, and they can never have too many volunteers. Find out about your local CERT program and join the team, or offer your support in other ways. If there is no Community Emergency Response Team program in your area, look into helping start one. We can all help each other following an emergency or disaster if we work together as a team!

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