Community Emergency Response Team

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In the United States a community emergency response team (CERT) can refer to

  • one of five federal programs promoted under the umbrella organization Citizen Corps, which is funded in part by the Stafford Act;
  • an implementation of the federal CERT program, administered by a local sponsoring agency, which receives Stafford grant funding, and provides standardized training and an implementation framework to community members;
  • an organization of volunteer emergency workers who have received specific training in basic disaster response skills, and who agree to supplement existing emergency responders in the event of a major disaster.

Sometimes programs and organizations take different names, such as neighborhood emergency response team (NERT), or neighborhood emergency team (NET).

The concept of civilian auxiliaries is similar to civil defense, which has a longer history. The CERT concept differs because it includes nonmilitary emergencies, and is coordinated with all levels of emergency authorities, local to national, via an overarching incident command system.



The concept of widespread local volunteer emergency responders was implemented and developed by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985. The Whittier Narrows earthquake of 1987 showed the need for preparing citizens to take care of themselves and their loved ones after a disaster.[1]

In the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, residents of San Francisco's Marina District help run lengths of fire hose from a fireboat to firefighters ashore after the hydrant system failed. Later, the Fire Department worked with the community to form the City's NERT program (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team).[2]

By 1993, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had made the program available nationwide; by 2003, CERT programs were offered in 45 states. [3]

CERT and Citizen Corps were transferred to the Office of Domestic Preparedness (now the Office of Grants and Training) in August 2004.

CERT Organization

A local government agency, often a fire department or emergency management agency, agrees to sponsor CERT within its jurisdiction. The sponsoring agency liases with, deploys and may train or supervise the training of CERT members. The sponsoring agency receives and disburses federal and state Citizen Corps grant funds allocated to its CERT program. Many sponsoring agencies employ a full-time community-service person as liaison to the CERT members. In some communities, the liaison is a volunteer and CERT member.

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