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CERT Basic Training


If available, emergency services personnel are the best-trained and -equipped people to handle your emergencies. Following a catastrophic disaster, however, you and your community may be on your own for a period of time because of the size of the area affected, lost communications, and blocked roads.


CERT Basic Training is designed to prepare you to help yourself and to help others in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Because emergency services personnel will not be able to help everyone immediately, you can make a difference by using your CERT training to save lives and protect property.


The units covered in Basic Training are:

Disaster Preparedness

Everyone in the community has the ability and the responsibility to prepare for disasters. Government leaders have the responsibility to engage the whole community in the process of community planning and in testing and evaluating those plans. Community leaders have the responsibility to ensure their employees and constituent groups are prepared and to participate on coordinating planning councils. The public has the responsibility to learn about community hazards and plans, and to prepare, train, practice, and volunteer.


Fire Safety & Utility Controls

It is extremely important to identify the class of fire to use the proper extinguisher for the class. Portable fire extinguishers are most frequently used for suppressing small fires. Their labels tell the types of fires for which they are effective and the area that they can suppress.When using portable fire extinguishers,  remember P.A.S.S.: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. Always test the extinguisher after pulling the pin. When suppressing a fire, always follow the safety rules established for CERTs.

Disaster Medical Operations - Part I

CERT members’ ability to open airways, control bleeding, and treat shock is critical to saving lives. We are trained to recognized these "Three Killers," and to triage and treat patients accordingly. Triage is a system for rapidly evaluating  victims’ injuries and prioritizing them for treatment. There is so much to cover about emergency response that we split this topic into two units.


Disaster Medical Operations - Part II

In this packed unit, we cover an enormous amount about how to recognize and treat life-threatening and other common disaster-related injuries. A few topics that we cover include: public health, disaster medical operations, head-to-toe assessments, burns, bleeding, fractures, dislocations, strains, sprains, hypo- and hyperthermia, and anaphylaxis. Although we cover a large amount of material in this unit, we cannot consider ourselves to be emergency medical technicians or paramedics based on having this knowledge.

Light Search and Rescue Operations

The decision to attempt a rescue should be base on the risks involved and achievement of the overall goal of doing the greatest good for the greatest number. The objectives of interior and exterior search and rescue are to maintain rescuer safety at all times, rescue the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time, get the walking wounded and ambulatory victims out first, and to rescue the lightly trapped victims next. CERTs are restricted to light search and rescue. Our mission when dealing with heavily damaged structures or situations that are clearly unsafe (e.g., rising or swiftly moving water) is to warn others.


CERT Organization

The Incident Command System is the system used by emergency response agencies and CERT to manage emergency operations. ICS provides a flexible means of managing personnel, facilities, equipment, and communication and can be expanded as necessary. The key question that CERT Incident Commanders must always ask is: “Is it safe for CERT members to attempt the rescue?” Whether or not to attempt a rescue depends on the degree of damage to the structure involved. CERT members’ safety is the number one priority. It is vital to document and communicate information about situation and resource status to all CERT levels.

Disaster Psychology

During a disaster, rescuers may be exposed to things that are extremely unpleasant or uncomfortable. These experiences will be stressful and may be traumatic.

  • Over-identifying with survivors may subject rescuers to vicarious trauma.

  • There are both psychological and physiological symptoms of trauma that may be observed in victims and rescuers after a disaster.

  • CERT leaders can take steps to reduce stress on rescue workers before, during, and after an incident.

  • CERT members can take steps to personally reduce stress.

Terrorism and CERT

Terrorism may be perpetrated by foreign or domestic individuals or groups. Terrorists attack to:

  • Intimidate the government or the civilian population

  • Further their objectives

When terrorists attack, their goals are to:

  • Create mass casualties

  • Disrupt critical resources, vital services, and the economy

  • Cause fear

CERT members should treat possible terrorist incidents the same as they would HazMat incidents — as a stop sign. If they observe indicators of a possible terrorist incident, they should:

  • Not touch it!

  • Move away from the object or area

  • Report it to authorities immediately

After Basic Training, team members meet monthly for continuing training. We may review or expand on one of the above lessons, or another FEMA-sponsored training such as Animal Response in a Disaster, Firefighter Rehab, Traffic Control and Management, Leadership Tools for Success, or a tabletop exercise, or we may do something completely different - as long as we are learning, practicing our skills and having fun!

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