CERT Training


Well, it’s like paying for car insurance. You might never need either; you’d hope not to. But if the occasion arises, having the CERT training, just like having car insurance, means you’re as ready as you can be to help yourself, your family and your neighborhood.The basic idea is to use CERT to perform the large number of tasks needed in emergencies. This frees highly trained professional responders for more technical tasks. Much of CERT training concerns the Incident Command System and organization, so CERT members fit easily into larger command structures.

A team may self-activate (self-deploy) when their own neighborhood is affected by disaster. An effort is made to report their response status to the sponsoring agency. A self-activated team will size-up the loss in their neighborhood and begin performing the skills they have learned to minimize further loss of life, property, and environment. They will continue to respond safely until redirected or relieved by the sponsoring agency or professional responders on-scene.

Teams in neighborhoods not affected by disaster may be deployed or activated by the sponsoring agency. The sponsoring agency may communicate with neighborhood CERT leaders through an organic communication team. In some areas the communications may be by amateur radio, FRS, GMRS or MURS radio, dedicated telephone or fire-alarm networks. In other areas, relays of bicycle-equipped runners can effectively carry messages between the teams and the local emergency operations center.

The sponsoring agency may activate and dispatch teams in order to gather or respond to intelligence about an incident. Teams may be dispatched to affected neighborhoods, or organized to support operations. CERT members may augment support staff at an Incident Command Post or Emergency Operations Center. Additional teams may also be created to guard a morgue, locate supplies and food, convey messages to and from other CERTs and local authorities, and other duties on an as-needed basis as identified by the team leader.

In the short term, CERTs perform data gathering, especially to locate mass-casualties requiring professional response, or situations requiring professional rescues, simple fire-fighting tasks (for example, small fires, turning off gas), light search and rescue, damage evaluation of structures, triage and first aid. In the longer term, CERTs may assist in the evacuation of residents, or assist with setting up a neighborhood shelter.


While state and local jurisdictions will implement training in the manner that best suits the community, FEMA's National CERT Program has an established curriculum. Jurisdictions may augment the training, but are strongly encouraged to deliver the entire core content. The CERT core curriculum for the basic course is composed of the following nine units (time is instructional hours):[3]

  • Unit 1: Disaster Preparedness (2.5 hrs). Topics include (in part) identifying local disaster threats, disaster impact, mitigation and preparedness concepts, and an overview of Citizen Corps and CERT. Hands on skills include team-building exercises, and shutting off utilities.

  • Unit 2: Fire Safety (2.5 hrs). Students learn about fire chemistry, mitigation practices, hazardous materials identification, suppression options, and are introduced to the concept of size-up. Hands-on skills include using a fire extinguisher to suppress a live flame, and wearing basic protective gear. Firefighting standpipes as well as unconventional firefighting methods are also covered.

  • Unit 3: Disaster Medical Operations part 1 (2.5 hrs). Students learn to identify and treat certain life-threatening conditions in a disaster setting, as well as START triage. Hands-on skills include performing head-tilt/chin-lift, practicing bleeding control techniques, and performing triage as an exercise.

  • Unit 4: Disaster Medical Operations part 2 (2.5 hrs). Topics cover mass casualty operations, public health, assessing patients, and treating injuries. Students practice patient assessment, and various treatment techniques.

  • Unit 5: Light Search and Rescue Operations (2.5 hrs). Size-up is expanded as students learn about assessing structural damage, marking structures that have been searched, search techniques, as well as rescue techniques and cribbing. Hands-on activities include lifting and cribbing an object, and practicing rescue carries.

  • Unit 6: CERT Organization (1.5 hrs). Students are introduced to several concepts from the Incident Command System, and local team organization and communication is explained. Hands-on skills include a table-top exercise focusing on incident command and control.

  • Unit 7: Disaster Psychology (1 hr). Responder well-being and dealing with victim trauma are the topics of this unit.

  • Unit 8: Terrorism and CERT (2.5 hrs). Students learn how terrorists may choose targets, what weapons they may use, and identifying when chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive weapons may have been deployed. Students learn about CERT roles in preparing for and responding to terrorist attacks. A table-top exercise highlights topics covered.

  • Unit 9: Course Review and Disaster Simulation (2.5 hrs). Students take a written exam, then participate in a real-time practical disaster simulation where the different skill areas are put to the test. A critique follows the exercise where students and instructors have an opportunity to learn from mistakes and highlight exemplary actions. Students may be given a certificate of completion at the conclusion of the course.

CERT training emphasizes safely "doing the most good for the most people as quickly as possible" when responding to a disaster. For this reason, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training is not included in the core curriculum, as it is time and responder intensive in a mass-casualty incident. However, many jurisdictions encourage or require CERT members to obtain CPR training. Many CERT programs provide or encourage members to take additional first aid training. Some CERT members may also take training to become a certified first responder or emergency medical technician.

Arlington Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) provided back-up support to the county's 911 system.

Many CERT programs also provide training in amateur radio operation, shelter operations, flood response, community relations, mass care, the incident command system (ICS), and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).

Each unit of CERT training is ideally delivered by professional responders or other experts in the field addressed by the unit. This is done to help build unity between CERT members and responders, keep the attention of students, and help the professional response organizations be comfortable with the training which CERT members receive.

Each course of instruction is ideally facilitated by one or more instructors certified in the CERT curriculum by the state or sponsoring agency. Facilitating instructors provide continuity between units, and help ensure that the CERT core curriculum is being delivered successfully. Facilitating instructors also perform set-up and tear-down of the classroom, provide instructional materials for the course, record student attendance and other tasks which assist the professional responder in delivering their unit as efficiently as possible.

CERT training is provided free to interested members of the community, and is delivered in a group classroom setting. People may complete the training without obligation to join a CERT. Citizen Corps grant funds can be used to print and provide each student with a printed manual. Some sponsoring agencies use Citizen Corps grant funds to purchase disaster response tool kits. These kits are offered as an incentive to join a CERT, and must be returned to the sponsoring agency when members resign from CERT.

Some sponsoring agencies require a criminal background-check of all trainees before allowing them to participate on a CERT. For example, the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico require all volunteers to pass a background check,[4] while the city of Austin, Texasdoes not require a background check to take part in training classes but requires members to undergo a background check in order to receive a CERT badge and directly assist first responders during an activation of the Emergency Operations Center.[5] However, most programs do not require a criminal background check in order to participate.