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Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

CALL 1-877-CERT-411 (1-877-237-8411)

About The CERT Program

A key component of our State's community preparedness and participation initiative is the Citizen Corps Program. Citizen Corps provides opportunity for citizen volunteers to become active and involved in homeland security and emergency management activities designed to make individuals, their families and their communities safer, stronger and better prepared to deal with a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. Citizen Corps offers five (5) core programs:

  • Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)
  • Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)
  • Neighborhood Watch (NW)
  • Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS)
  • Fire Corps (FC)

In addition, Citizen Corps advocates and supports citizen involvement in any other volunteer oriented program designed and/or formed to support these goals.

Our State strategy for Citizen Corps program implementation and overall citizen preparedness is based on a teamwork, partnership and collaboration approach. Citizen Corps programs and activities are coordinated by a network of Councils established to facilitate the growth and development of the programs. New Jersey was the first state to achieve 100% coverage of its citizenry by a network of Councils statewide.

CERT is our most successful program to date.

CERT - Then And Now

The CERT concept dates back to 1985, when the Los Angeles Fire Department recognized that in the early stages of a disaster - earthquakes in particular - local emergency responders would be overwhelmed, and basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills would improve the ability of community members to survive until responders or other assistance arrived.

Recognizing the universal value of this program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worked in conjunction with the LAFD to make the CERT program applicable to all types of hazards and developed a CERT training program which could be used nationwide and adapted to meet local conditions when the need arose.

The tragic events of September 11 remind us that disaster can strike anywhere or anytime, and that basic safety and disaster survival skills can mean the difference between life and death. CERT training empowers community members to prepare responsibly and respond appropriately when emergencies occur.

What CERT Teams Do

CERT members give critical support to first responders in emergencies, provide immediate assistance to victims, organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site, and collect disaster intelligence to support first responder efforts.

About CERT Training

If you join a CERT, you will receive basic-level training in the following areas:

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

Total training is usually about 20 hours, scheduled in 2-4 hour modules, over a period of weeks or months, in order to address the scheduling needs of team members. It's held in the community or county where you live.

Training courses, student materials and equipment are provided free of charge.

If you are an individual looking to join a local CERT Team, contact your municipal emergency management coordinator to see if the program is already active in your community, or if a CERT program is being developed. To find the telephone number of the municipal emergency management office, look in the telephone directory, or contact your County CERT Coordinator (12k pdf). Or, call 1-877-CERT-411 (1-877-237-8411) to obtain information about teams forming in your area.

Starting A CERT Program In Your Community

Interest in CERT is sparked in many ways. Municipal Emergency Management Coordinators should first design a CERT program for their municipality and then recruit volunteers.

Sometimes existing organizations - civic associations, Neighborhood Watch Groups, parent-teacher associations, schools, businesses, etc. - will express an interest in expanding the group's mission to include the formation of a CERT Team. Any activity involving a CERT should be coordinated with the local emergency management office.

To establish a CERT, follow these steps:

  1. Identify persons who may be interested in joining a CERT.
  2. Identify a local municipal official to assist and oversee the formation of the CERT Program. Contact the County CERT Coordinator (12k pdf) to enroll in a CERT T-T-T Program and to insure coordination of equipment and other materials.
  3. Define the CERT's mission, organization and purpose. This is very important. The CERT members must receive training appropriate to their mission and purpose.
  4. Obtain resources needed to support the CERT, including instructors for various topics and equipment required to safely support the team's mission.
  5. Schedule and conduct training for CERT members.
  6. Offer continuing education, skills review, and emergency management exercises for CERT team members.
  7. Continuously recruit for new team members, conduct team oversight and program maintenance.

Support Available For Local CERT Programs

In order to establish an CERT, the municipal emergency management coordinator, or designee, must attend the CERT Train-the-Trainer Program offered through the NJOEM Recovery Bureau. The CERT T-T-T is intended for individuals who will lead or coordinate a CERT Program, not for individual team members.

During the week of April 1, 2003 the NJOEM launched the CERT Program in each of New Jersey's 21 counties. Each county has designated a CERT Coordinator.

NJOEM CERT Program Contact Info

Howard Butt, CERT Coordinator

CERT Train-The-Trainer (T-T-T) Courses Scheduled

The CERT T-T-T course is open to all police, fire emergency management and other approved personnel who will be implementing the CERT program in their communities. The course will provide the basics in managing and implementing the CERT program. There is no cost for attending this course.

  • For a CERT Train The Trainer course flyer click here [pdf - 142kb] Updated 11/29/2016
  • For a CERT Training application click here [pdf - 176kb] Updated 11/29/2016

"Become A CERT Volunteer Brochure"

For use in promoting the CERT program in your community, the "Become a CERT Volunteer" brochure [pdf - 201k] is available for download.

Information About CERT For Mayors And Other Elected Officials

A "Dear Mayor" letter [pdf] issued jointly with the NJ League of Municipalities on May 5, 2003. It provides an overview of the CERT Program and resources provided by FEMA and NJOEM to support it.

Frequently Asked Questions About The CERT Program

Q1: I'm already a volunteer or career EMT/Firefighter/Police Officer. Can I help train the CERT Teams?

A1: If you are interested in becoming a part of the instructional team for the local CERT, contact your municipal emergency management coordinator, or the county CERT Coordinators listed above.

Q2: I'm a municipal emergency management coordinator. Can I use a CERT to address other emergency management needs ? Can team members respond to the EOC and help with phones, conduct damage assessment, etc.?

A2: This is a question the community must address during the planning stages of its CERT program. Some individuals will be very willing to assist in the EOC or help out with tasks outside their home or neighborhood. Others will not. The core principle of CERT is "neighbor helping neighbor," but if you view an expanded mission for the CERT, then you must discuss it with potential team members. FEMA's website provides examples of how CERT teams are used across the country.

Another alternative is to provide [optional] additional training for CERT members who are willing to meet help out the municipality with basic emergency management tasks.

Two key points to remember are:

  • The CERT mission should meet the needs and expectations of individuals who want to volunteer. This will enhance recruitment and retention of team members.
  • CERT team members must be provided adequate training for the job they are expected to perform.

Q3: Is funding available for CERT Teams?

A3: New Jersey receives federal grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security to support the Citizen Corps/CERT initiative. Working through the state, county, and local network of Citizen Corp Councils, these monies will be utilized to fund CERT training programs and equip the instructors and students with the materials needed to support training. A population based formula has been utilized to award the funding to New Jersey. The New Jersey program will emphasize "performance based funding" whereby those counties and municipalities that are actively endorsing and participating in the program will receive a larger share of the support resources available.

In a few communities, CERT organization have formed IRS 501(c)3 organizations for non-profit status. This allows them to conduct fund raising and accept donations.

Q4: What's the difference between CERT, Citizen Corps, and Freedom Corps?

A4: Freedom Corps is the Federal Government's effort to "...enhance opportunities for Americans to serve their neighbors and their nation." Its major program components are AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, The Peace Corps, and Citizen Corps.

Citizen Corps is designed to engage citizens in the Homeland Security effort. Programs represented under the Citizen Corps program are: Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, the Medical Reserve Corps, Operation TIPS, Citizen Corps Councils and the CERT Program. New Jersey's Citizen Corps Coordinator is Howard Butt, Emergency Response Specialist, Public Assistance and Support Services Unit, Recovery Bureau for the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management.

Q5: What about liability?

A5: If you are an municipal emergency management or public safety official, it is wise to speak with your municipal attorney about any and all volunteer management issues while the program is under development. FEMA's website provides a discussion paper on CERT and liability.

New Jersey Community Emergency Response Teams

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New Jersey Office of Emergency Management
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Trenton, NJ 08628


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