Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training

CERT Members practice their skills during periodic drills.

Trained CERT Members practice their skills during periodic drills. During these exercises, CERT volunteers keep their skills up-to-date and learn new information from LA County Fire Department personnel.

Following a major disaster, fire and rescue resources may be unable to immediately respond to all those in need. In such a crisis, it will be neighbors assisting neighbors until emergency response personnel can arrive. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training provides residents with the skills and tools necessary to take care of themselves, their families, neighbors, and coworkers in the event of a disaster.

LACoFD offers free, FEMA-approved 20-hour CERT training to the communities we serve. Classes are taught by trained emergency personnel, including firefighters and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel. Through this training, residents learn about hazards that may impact their area as well as basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Upon completion of the course, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help.

It is important to note that CERT volunteers do not work for LACoFD. Instead, volunteers are registered with their respective cities, unincorporated areas or local law enforcement agencies. In the event of an emergency, some volunteers become part of the disaster plan for local authorities. Upon activation of an Emergency Operations Center, a city representative, a Fire Department liaison or law enforcement liaison will contact CERT volunteers and provide direction about how those volunteers will be utilized. Participants have no obligation or commitment to respond or act should a disaster occur.

How CERT’s Operate

As each CERT is organized and trained, its members select a team leader and an alternate and identify an emergency meeting location, or staging area, to be used in the event of an emergency. Teams are encouraged to go into action even during relatively moderate emergencies, regardless of actual need, to gain practice mobilizing and assessing damage.

The staging area is where the fire department and other services will interact with CERTs. Having a centralized contact point makes it possible to communicate damage assessments and allocate volunteer resources more effectively.

Damage from disasters may vary considerably from one location to another. In an actual disaster, CERTs are deployed progressively and as needs dictate. Members are taught to assess their own needs and those in their immediate environment first.

CERT members who encounter no need in their immediate area then report to their staging area, where they take on assigned roles based on overall area needs. Members who find themselves in a heavily affected location send runners to staging areas to get help from available resources. Ham and CB radio links also may be used to increase communication capabilities and coordination.

The CERT program can provide an effective first-response capability. Acting as individuals first, then later as members of teams, trained CERT volunteers can fan out within their assigned areas, extinguishing small fires, turning off natural gas inlets to damaged homes, performing light search and rescue, and rendering basic medical treatment. Trained volunteers also offer an important potential workforce to service organizations in nonhazardous functions such as shelter support, crowd control, and evacuation.

The Department recognizes the value each trained citizen will bring in the event of a major disaster. As individuals, we can prepare our homes and families to cope during the first critical hours following an emergency. Through CERT, you can help yourself and your neighbors reduce your emergency needs and manage your existing resources until professional assistance becomes available.