What is CERT?

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) concept was first developed and implemented by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985, to provide an element of civilian volunteers to assist ‘first responders’ and their local communities during a catastrophic disaster. Since that time, the CERT concept has been expanded on a national level by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States government, as a supported activity under the Citizen Corps Program of FEMA. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the 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. CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, which allows them to focus on more complex tasks. Through CERT, the capabilities to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters is built and enhanced. Since 1993, CERT has impacted communities across the country, building essentials skills and capabilities to prepare for and respond to any disaster. There are now CERT programs in all 50 states, including many tribal nations and U.S. territories; each unique to its community but all essential to building a Culture of Preparedness. The CERT program was designed as a grassroots initiative and specifically structured so that the local and state program managers have the flexibility to form their programs in the way that best suits their communities. CERT volunteers are trained to respond safely, responsibly, and effectively to emergency situations, but they can also support their communities during non-emergency events as well. There are over 2,700 local CERT programs nationwide, with more than 600,000 individuals trained since CERT became a national program. FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team Program trains volunteers to prepare for the types of disasters that their community may face. Local government prepares for everyday emergencies. However, during a disaster, the number and scope of incidents can overwhelm conventional emergency services. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program is an all-risk, all-hazard training. This valuable course is designed to help you protect yourself, your family, your neighbors, and your neighborhood in an emergency situation. CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens may initially be on their own and their actions can make a difference. While people will respond to others in need without the training, one goal of the CERT program is to help them do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.

Through hands-on practice and realistic exercises, CERT members:

  • Learn how to safely respond to manmade and natural hazards
  • Help organize basic disaster response
  • Promote preparedness by hosting and participating in community events
Visit the Santa Clara County CERT programs site for information on the CERT training program in the Santa Clara County.

CERT Introduction Training: IS-317 (Online): is available online through FEMA as an independent study course that serves as an introduction to CERT for those wanting to complete online training or as a refresher for current CERT members. The online course takes between six and eight hours to complete at your own pace.

Upon successfully finishing the IS-317 course, the registrant will receive a certificate of completion (from FEMA). Aside from being a great resource for those new to the CERT program, this class is also a great refresher for current Los Altos CERT volunteers. To take the online course, click here.