During a large-scale disaster, the response of any community's emergency services may be delayed or overwhelmed for a variety of reasons. This leaves the citizens of the community - family, neighbors, and co-workers - to provide for their own well-being and safety until professional responders arrive. This very reality is the cornerstone of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program.
The goal of the CERT program is to provide the private citizens who complete the course with the basic skills that they will need to respond to their community's immediate needs in the aftermath of a disaster, when emergency services are not immediately available. By working together, CERTs can assist in saving lives and protecting property using the basic techniques in this course.
The CERT program is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. The program provides a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference. CERT is a community based volunteer effort and is a component of the Citizen Corps program.
The CERT program strives to present citizens with the facts about what to expect following a major disaster in their community and to deliver the message about their responsibility for mitigation and preparedness. Through didactic and hands-on sessions they receive training in needed life saving skills with emphasis on decision making, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. Lastly, local CERT program managers will likely organize teams so that they are an extension of first responder services offering immediate help to victims until professional services arrive.
The basic CERT program encompasses nine units:
- Emergency Preparedness
- Fire Safety
- Emergency Medical Operations I
- Emergency Medical Operations II
- Light Search and Rescue Operations
- CERT Organization
- Disaster Psychology
- Terrorism and CERT
- Disaster Simulation
These units are intended to be delivered in 2.5 to 3 hour blocks during once-per-week evening sessions.
Where the team aspect of CERT may not be applicable to various communities in New York State, we stress the benefits that the CERT training will provide for individual, family, and workplace preparedness. Either way, coordination with local Citizen Corps Councils (if in place) and local emergency services agencies/organizations is a critical relationship. These partnerships ensure that CERTs are not working independently or contrary to the local emergency response. Local Citizen Corps Councils and local emergency services will establish the operating procedures for CERTs specific to their communities.
Administered by the New York State Office of Emergency Management (NYS OEM), the State's responsibilities of the CERT program include training and qualifying CERT instructors through state-wide Train-the-Trainer programs and coordinating the CERT curriculum for New York State. OEM is also responsible for administering any CERT grants that may be formulated by the Federal Government.
Since the CERT program is an initiative that needs to be coordinated locally, local governments are responsible for course delivery, team/program management, and material and equipment costs.
A variety of funding sources exist to help defray the start-up and maintenance costs of a CERT program:
- Some communities build costs into their budget, while others charge participants to cover costs for instructors and course materials.
- In some communities, CERT organizations have filed for 501(C)3 (non-profit organization) status, thus allowing them to do fund raising. Also, government entities are usually able to conduct fundraising activities for community programs.
- Grants have been made available by the federal government to assist communities in their CERT programs. Grant information will be posted on this website as soon as it is available.