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.

History of the CERT Program

Nationally,the concept for CERT training grew out of the Mexico City earthquake in which untrained volunteers who were willing to undertake rescue and life saving steps in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake saved over 800 people. However, over 100 of these volunteer rescuers lost their lives because they did not have sufficient training to accomplish everything they were attempting.

California authorities, visiting Mexico City after the earthquake, saw the potential of having a core of trained volunteers who could respond (without direction) in natural or man-made disasters and save lives while government and other disaster response agencies mobilized an organized response.  The concept proved a great success in saving lives and preserving property following the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

In 1994 The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) adopted the program and has started promoting the concept with standardized training nation-wide. FEMA still bases the program on volunteers, but by standardizing the training they feel they can insure a consistent level of training and performance nationwide.  Standardized training allows volunteer emergency organizations and government officials from any jurisdiction to be familiar with capabilities and limitations and how to effectively communicate missions to CERT members from other jurisdictions.

After September 11, 2001, America witnessed a wellspring of selflessness and heroism.  People in every corner of the country asked, “What can I do?”and “How can I help?” Citizen Corps was created to help all Americans answer these questions through public education and outreach, training,and volunteer service.  CERT volunteers are now included in the new Citizen Corps and as part of the overall Homeland Security Team.

Why Should You Become a Member of
Encinitas’ Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)?

Because… well, let’s put it this way: try to picture this…

  • A 7.5 earthquake strikes the San Diego region, hitting North County particularly hard.  A number of dwellings have collapsed, killing many people and trapping many more, some severely hurt. Emergency Services rush to the scene of the first calls they receive and try to help as fast as they can.  But there are serious obstacles on their path: segments of highways have become impassable and many roads have suffered significant damage.  As a result, traffic is at a standstill almost everywhere.  Most cell phone relay towers have crashed, rendering cell phones useless. Land lines have suffered damage as well, making phone calls impossible.  In addition, gas leaks have started fires in dozens of houses and apartment complexes and need to be extinguished quickly lest they extend to entire city blocks or trigger a replay of  the San Diego fires of 2003 and 2007.  Firefighters and EMS are overwhelmed.  Some hospitals have suffered destruction and disruption, too.
  • Where will you be when this happens (and it will happen, all geologists agree on that)?
  • Will you be at home with your loved ones, or will you be at work, and therefore cut off from them and not able to reconnect, maybe for days?  What will you do?  What should you do?  Will you know?  Are you counting on your neighbors or co-workers to tell you what to do in such a situation?  Do you have an emergency backpack in your car?  If you’re away from home, you may have to make it back on foot.  What takes 45minutes over the highway today may take a day walking the same distance. Do you have enough food and water to make the trip?  Do you have a first-aid kit?  You will probably encounter people who will need your help.  Will you be able to do so or will you have to ignore their pleas for assistance?  Wherever you find yourself when the earthquake strikes, there is a very good chance that many neighborhoods will be on their own during the early stages following a catastrophic disaster of this magnitude.

Such disasters in the recent past have shown that most people, when they are not hurt themselves, want to volunteer and help others.  But without proper training, they can expose themselves to potential injury and even death.  To take just one example, do you know how to recognize the danger of downed power lines?  Basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills improves the ability of citizens to survive and take care of others less fortunate until professional responders arrive.