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.