CERT Program


The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

In 2004, at the request of concerned citizens, the City of Whitehall agreed to offer CERT training as an outreach educational program. Four staff members from the city administration attended a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sponsored train-the-trainer program and put on the first classes that fall. The first class of 23 was put to the test in the aftermath of the ice storm in December 2004. CERT trained citizens worked from the Division of Fire aiding those in need and handling non-emergency requests that emergency personnel could not get too. CERT members manned the phones at the firehouse, staffed two emergency shelters at the parks, and provided hot meals for electric company crews working to restore electricity.

Continued Training

Since then, more than 70 individuals of all ages have attended CERT training. A group of CERT trained citizens meets once a month at the firehouse for continuing education and to help with the planning and delivery of community special events. CERT members may be recognized by their safety green vests and hard hats. CERT members strive to be prepared and follow a given hierarchy of providing aid.

  • Take care of your family. Then.
  • Take care of your neighbors. Then
  • Take care of your neighborhood, City, county, state, etc.

For the City of Whitehall, CERT trained citizens are a valuable asset when disasters strike.

CERT History

Development & Implementation 

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) concept was developed and implemented by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. They recognized that citizens would very likely be on their own during the early stages of a catastrophic disaster. Accordingly, LAFD decided that some basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills would improve the ability of citizens to survive until responders or other assistance could arrive. 

The training program that the LAFD initiated proved to be so beneficial that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) felt that the concept and the program should be made available to communities nationwide. In 1994, the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), in cooperation with the LAFD, expanded the CERT materials to make them applicable to all hazards. 

Volunteer Program

In 2003, President Bush asked all Americans to volunteer in the service of their country. The Citizen Corps program was created to spearhead this effort to harness the power of every individual through education, training, and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and disasters of all kinds. CERT was selected as one of the primary programs offered to the American public to meet this challenge.