Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

In a Nutshell

Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) train members of neighborhoods and organizations such as schools or workplaces, to become better prepared in the case of a emergency situation such as a flood, tornado, earthquake, fire or other hazardous events. CERT members often are the first responders to major disaster situations, especially when medical and emergency staff cannot immediately come to the rescue. In the event of a crisis, CERT triage and treat victims, set up medical treatment areas, are psychologically alert, and can save lives.

Practical Solution

The “How To”The “How To”

CERT supports our emergency responders whether it be a crisis situation requiring a few responders or a major disaster that affects a whole city. Being a first responder is important when emergency teams require additional support. Through training, CERT members become aware of potential hazards in the workplace or at home, keeping their loved ones, neighbors, and co-workers safe.

Basic CERT training may include the following:

  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Disaster Medical Operations
  • Fire Suppression
  • Light Search and Rescue Operations
  • CERT Operation/Incident Command System
  • Disaster Psychology
  • Terrorism Awareness
  • Disaster Simulation

Check if your community or workplace already offers a CERT. Existing teams in your community may serve as informative resources if you decide your group is interested in assembling a team. Find and contact an existing CERT if interested in joining or view the information below to learn how to assemble your own CERT. CERT requires a partnership between community members, school, or nonprofit, or employer and local government, emergency management and response organizations. Register your CERT now.

Start Your Own CERT

Assess your community and workplace’s disaster preparedness. Know which disasters are most prevalent within your community such as earthquakes and floods. There is a chance of earthquakes as the Saint Louis region is located on an active fault in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Communities located near a river or water source may be at risk for flooding. The Local Emergency Management Agency in Missouri or Illinois can assist with an area’s risk assessment.

Based upon the hazards and needs of your community, establish program goals and learning objectives. These should be most beneficial and obtainable goals. Here are some examples of CERT goals. “To improve community preparedness by improving the credibility of neighbor-to-neighbor information” or “Make University officials aware and prepared for earthquakes, fires, and floods.”

Assemble your CERT Training and professional team. Find partners available to teach and train your CERT team. These may include members of the local fire or police department, EMTs, public safety personnel, and other members from older and experienced CERTs. The CERT initiator can be a part of this. Some training is involved.

As you have your objectives and your CERT Training Team ready, target how many people of your community or organization should be trained that first year. Also acquire materials needed. Materials may include hardhats, vests, gloves, goggles, medical kits, and bags to carry this all together. As fire safety is a common goal of CERT classes, see if a local Fire Department can provide you with this item for that aspect of the demonstration. CERT Booklets are available with other CERT material online

Planning & ZoningPlanning & Zoning

CERT programs must operate through a local emergency response organization such as the local Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management, or Department of Public Safety and must be endorsed by the local Citizens Corps Council if your community has one.

A barrier to CERT may be dangers and risks involved when responding to an emergency. One of the first and most important rules of CERT is to never place your life in harms way. CERT takes precautions to minimize the risks. Download the CERT Liability Guide.

Please note that CERT members are covered under the Volunteer Protection Act. Generally the Volunteer Protection Act eliminates volunteer liability if damages are caused while acting under the organizations duties or responsibilities given to that individual.

Dollars & CentsDollars & Cents

CERT members are volunteers. Out-of-pocket costs will disincentivize participation. If your CERT is connected with an organization, a city, or employment center, ask them to sponsor the team. Communities that are committed to emergency preparedness and response may be able to support a portion of the costs. For possible funding opportunities, please visit the Missouri Citizens Corps or the Illinois Citizen Corps. Grants may be available to support communitywide approaches to creating safe schools. The Safe Schools-Healthy Students Initiative help to keep our schools safe.

Measuring SuccessMeasuring Success

Measuring the benefits of CERT

  • People who graduate from CERT should have knowledge of potential threats at home and in their worl place and take steps to minimize those hazards.
  • Emergency management teams will have additional support which is very handy in overwhelming crises.
  • A final test may be given at the end of the CERT training period to acknowloedge how participants can handle emergency situations and what they have learned.
  • The size of each graduating class can signify how important members of that particular community view the CERT program.
  • If a community or local official has recognized a CERT or an individual trained by CERT by acting heroically in a disasterous situation.
  • In the event of a disaster, the CERT provided assistance to the local emergency response team.
  • The number of CERT graduates that help with training programs for current trainees and who attend other CERT training courses.

Case StudiesCase Studies

Saint Louis University CERT

  • Contact

    William Iwasko
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


    20 North Grand Blvd - Saint Louis, MO 63103


    SLU CERT is funded by the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness at Saint Louis University. We offer CERT training in the fall and spring semesters however we only except two members from outside of the university for each training session. Fortunately, as an organization we have not had to respond to any disasters on campus however some of our individual members have helped out with incidents away from the University.

    One example, some students were driving from Illinois back to Missouri and came across a town that had just been hit by a tornado.  They pulled over and got their CERT gear out of their car and started to assess the situation.  A couple of people came out from the rubble and were horrified at the sight.  The CERT members used what they were taught in disaster psychology to keep the people calm.  They then continued to assess the situation and came across an individual trapped in some rubble which other people were already attempting to rescue.  Using the skills they learned from Search and Rescue as well as cribbing, they stabilized the house as best as they could and assisted in freeing the individual from the rubble.  Once the fire fighters arrived on scene the CERT members relayed all of the information to the fire fighters so that they could better deploy their resources.

    A second example, One of our CERT members was in Africa to provide assistance to the locals.  One morning their group was riding in a van to go to a different town when they were overrun by bandits who fired multiple rounds into the van.  Fortunately the CERT member was not injured and used their knowledge from Medical Operations to save multiple members in the van who had been shot. 

    Cost $0

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Teen CERT is for the members of our youth who would like to learn readiness and response skills. Teen CERT instructors should include nurses, teachers, and physical education teachers as well as police officers and fire fighters. Watch the Teen CERT PSA or learn more with the Teen CERT brochure.