How To Get Started With CERT in Your Community

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What in the world is CERT all about? Well, the initials, C.E.R.T.  stand for Community Emergency Response Team. You can see a few different tools below that Certified CERT people will use in a disaster. We as neighbors, friends, and family need to learn how to work together in the event of an emergency.

A group of neighbors took the eight-week course and we really did learn some great tools to use after a natural disaster or unforeseen emergency. It’s important to know what CERT is and how it can help your community.

How to Get Started with CERT

We also need to have the physical tools as well, in order to help each other.  We are NOT doctors or nurses, but we need to know how to help our neighbors, friends, and family until help arrives, such as government agencies and medical personnel.

It could be a few hours, a few days or a few weeks in the most severe situations. None of us know when help may arrive. We NEED to be able to take care of ourselves. We can’t always depend on our government or local authorities, they can only do so much.

Why Every Community Needs CERT

Let me give you some statistics for OUR area in Southern Utah. These statistics are a few years old, but none the less, please look at these numbers in the St. George, Utah (Washington County) area. We have on average 140,000 people living here. Washington County has 17 ambulances, 46 fire trucks, 204 police cars.

We have two hospitals with 145 beds available. These numbers are scary, we can’t depend on anyone but ourselves. Please check out your local numbers. You might just be as surprised as I was when I saw the reality of the situation.

My husband and I both got certified to help our neighborhood. We called a few neighbors to do it with us. We could only talk three people into doing the class. Here’s the deal, I have no medical training, but I can organize just about anything. I thought to myself, if we could get twenty people to join us, our neighborhood would be in better shape than it was before the classes.

Well, we have 5 people in our neighborhood trained now. I am thankful to the other three people who will help us if needed. Most emergency or medical people will be at the hospitals or other emergency set up areas when a disaster hits.

What’s In A CERT Bag or BackPack?

Whats In Your C.E.R.T. Bag

The backpack on the left above is actually my bag. The one on the right is my emergency bag with supplies. My husband has his own bags which I will show below. He carries medical supplies. We both have several duplicate items because we might not be in the same area all the time. We have slowly added emergency items to the bags as our budget allowed.

Whats In Your C.E.R.T. Bag

Here are the contents in my CERT backpack:

  • A book to inventory homes and people, different colors of tape to mark the assessment of the injured people (red=needs immediate help, yellow=delay/not immediate, green means they are ok and may not need much assistance, and the black means they are the worst off and maybe dead – Note: we’ll discuss triage and the use of the tape in more detail below), hardhat,
  • Berkey Sports Bottle for filtering water, goggles, headlamp, work gloves, and a 4 in 1 tool (shown below), CERT vest, light sticks and scissors, N95 masks. My N95 Masks: 3M 8000 Particle Respirator N95, 30-Pack or 3M 8511 Particulate N95 Respirator with Valve, 10-Pack
  • We all need to be aware of how and where to shut off our water, electricity, and gas lines.
  • We also need to know where to shut off our water inside our homes. Of course, we would never shut off gas unless we can smell gas or fire is coming our way, common sense needs to be used. I recommend everyone get the tool “On Duty” for shutting off gas lines, water lines, etc. It is a 4 in 1 tool. This is it: On-Duty Emergency Gas & Water Shutoff 4-n-1 Tool for Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Fires, Floods, Disasters and Emergencies

Mark’s CERT Bag Has Medical Supplies

Mark’s ( my hubby) CERT bag has all the medical supplies we will need until help arrives if it arrives. I know of two nurses and one doctor in our neighborhood. Of course, I do not know everyone that lives in the subdivision. The items shown below are in my bag:

Whats In Your C.E.R.T. Bag

  • Nitrile gloves,
  • N95 masks (you can never have enough of them),
  • BandAids
  • Yellow chalk,
  • Yellow caution tape
  • Paint sticks for makeshift splints.

Update on the bags. We took a suturing class by a doctor to show us how to suture deep and shallow cuts if we had to do it. We now have two suture sets included in our bags. I have added a stethoscope and several surgical scissors and bandages we might need.

  • Items like bleach will be critical if the sewer lines are broken.
  • We will need black bags for trash, body bags to tag or label with the name (if we know the name).
  • I was really disappointed with our HOA where I live after I asked for a list of the families that lived there. I understand the privacy stuff, but I can only help those people who I know.
  • I cannot waste any time on homes that appear empty when I know people live in certain houses.
  • I wanted the list so I could ask people for their next of kin. I know my kids would want to know I was okay if I was hurt and unable to communicate.

Basics of CERT

This information is taken out of my Citizens Corp-CERT Participant Manual, I just modified the script to personalize it more.

CERT-Fire Safety

1. You basically gather facts regarding the disaster, what has happened, and how many people are involved.

2. Assess and communicate the damage, walk around the area, and determine what has happened to a house or building you are assessing.

3. Consider probabilities, what is likely going to happen now, or may happen through cascading events.

4. Assess your own situation, are you in immediate danger? Can you handle this situation or have the equipment that you need?

5. Establish priorities, our lives at risk? Can you help? Remember, life safety is the first priority.

6. Make decisions, base your decisions on the answers to steps 1 through 3. Establish priorities.

7. Develop plans of action, develop a plan that will help you accomplish the priorities whether verbal or if more complex write them down.

Fire Extinguishers

In the CERT class, we all learned how to have a buddy with us to assist in putting out a fire. I must tell you those fire hoses are very very heavy. That was probably the most exciting thing I learned during our training. You sweep the hose to put out the fire.

Here are some interesting facts about regular fire extinguishers we have at home, in the garage or the car. All fire extinguishers are labeled with certain labels as to which classification of fuel the extinguisher will be effective:

1. Class A Fires: Ordinary combustibles like paper, cloth, wood, rubber, and many plastics

2. Class B Fires: Flammable liquids like oil, and gasoline, charcoal lighter, kerosene

3. Class C Fires: Energized electrical equipment like wiring or motors. Once the electricity to those are turned off the becomes a Class A

4. Class D Fires: Combustible metals like aluminum, magnesium or titanium

So when you purchase a fire extinguisher it is extremely important to identify the type of fuel to select the correct extinguisher you think may be best for your personal situation to do the job correctly.


One of the more interesting parts of the CERT class dealt with the term triage, which is a term that means to”sort.”  Triage isn’t always necessary, but during triage, the victims of a disaster are evaluated, then sorted by the urgency of the treatment needed, and then set up for immediate or delayed treatment.

Triage is used extensively in military maneuvers and has been shown to be very effective in situations where:

  • There are many more victims than rescuers.
  • There are limited resources.
  • Time is critical.

You use triage as soon as possible after victims are located or rescued. During triage victims’ conditions are evaluated and they are prioritized and labeled (tagged) into at least three categories:

* Immediate (I): The victim has life-threatening injuries like blocked airway, heavy bleeding or shock, that demand immediate attention to save their life.  There is an urgent need for rapid, life-saving treatment.  You can use two approaches to tag the victim: the first would be to put some red tape on the victim, the other would be to write an “I” on the victim with some kind of marker. I guess another option would be to attach the red tape and then mark the tape with the “I”, then there wouldn’t be any question.

Delayed (D): In this case, the injuries do not jeopardize the victim’s life.  The victim may require professional care, but treatment can be delayed. Here you tag with yellow tape and/or mark them with a “D”.

Dead (DEAD): Here you note that there is no respiration after two attempts to open the airway. Because CPR is a one-on-one type of care and is so labor-intensive, CPR is not performed when there are many more victims than there are rescuers and you need your people resources applied to those who can survive the disaster.

One other tag to consider is a green tag that identifies the individual as in reasonably good/ok condition and not needing care.

The CERT program has the goal to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  The process may seem to be a little arbitrary, but it isn’t a heartless exercise, you really are trying to help those needing the most assistance in the fastest manner possible.

The victims are then taken to the designated medical treatment area (immediate care, delayed care, or morgue). If you’ve had time to label the treatment areas with “I”, “D” or “Morgue” you can use any spontaneous volunteers or the less injured to help move the victims to these areas as appropriate.

There are special procedures to follow when conducting triage as listed below:

Step 1: Stop, Look, Listen, and Think. Before you start, stop, and size up the situation by looking around and listening to observe and listen to what is going on around you and the victims. THINK about YOUR safety, capability, and limitations, and decide if you will approach the situation, and if so, how you’ll perform what is necessary.

Step 2: Conduct Voice Triage. Begin your efforts by calling out as follows: “Emergency Response Team. If you can walk, come to the sound of my voice.” If there are survivors who are ambulatory, instruct them to stay at a designated location and continue with your triage process. There may be victims present who can provide useful information about the disaster at hand, unique issues about the location or building involved, and specific information about other possible victims that can’t be immediately observed.

Step 3: Start Where You Stand and Follow a Systematic Route. Start with the closest victims and work outward in a systematic approach to cover the area as quickly and effectively as possible.

Step 4: Evaluate Each Victim and Tag them. As mentioned above, “I” = immediate, “D” = delayed, or “DEAD”. Remember to include those who may be walking around but are still wounded/injured.

* Step 5: Treat “I” Victims Immediately. Initiate airway management, bleeding control, and treatment for shock for the “I” victims.

Step 6: Be Sure to Document the Triage Results. Outline how resources were deployed, detail the victims’ locations, and record how many casualties were assisted under each category of severity.

Although we are all concerned about the victims in a disaster situation, the rescuer’s safety is most important during triage. Proper protective equipment is vital so you don’t endanger your own health.  If you get hurt your ability to help others is limited. If you come in direct contact with other’s blood there may be long-term consequences. Take proper precautions!

Finally, consider helping to organize a CERT class in your neighborhood so all interest can benefit from the great training being offered.  Check with your local police or fire department to see what it would take to put the CERT class together, then get busy and promote the class to everyone you can.  It will be worth your efforts. The CERT book alone is worth the price of the class and the CERT backpack is a bonus. We learned a lot in the awesome class!

What is a Community Emergency Response Team?

According to “The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the 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.

CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks.”

How to Get CERT Trained

If you want to get trained in CERT, then you will need to complete the classroom training that is offered by a local government agency. Sometimes the police or fire department will offer classes.

How to Get FEMA Certified

If you want to take it a step further and get FEMA certified, then you will need to contact the Independent Study Program’s Customer Support Center at (301) 447-1200 or

FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency.

You might want to go check out  “The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997”: The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 signed by President Clinton(

First Aid Kit by Linda

Final Word

28 thoughts on “How To Get Started With CERT in Your Community

  • April 23, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    I was the CERT Founder, Director and TTT back home in Indiana when I was the Director of the County Emergency Management Agency.
    It is a wonderful program and many of the Fire Depts. had some of their personnel go thru the training and take it back to the other firefighters in the County.
    Good luck with your new found skills.

  • April 5, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Very helpful article ….thank you. I have been considering taking the course. Just completed Sky. Warn through our Emergency Management department.

    • April 6, 2016 at 7:48 am

      Hi Sandy, I haven’t heard of Sky. I need to check that out! Thank you, Linda

    • April 6, 2016 at 7:50 am

      Sandy, I can’t find a link to Sky. Do you have a link or can you tell me where to find out about it? Thanks, Linda

      • November 10, 2018 at 9:16 am

        FYI – In my area My Sky is offered through the local National Weather Service office.

        • November 10, 2018 at 11:17 am

          Hi Debbie, this is so awesome more and more programs are coming available to teach skills! Linda

        • November 10, 2018 at 9:34 pm

          All of the Skywarn training is offered by your local NWS office. Your starting point is, which is the Salt Lake City office. The Skywarn link is at the bottom left; but, appears to be broken. You can find out more about the program here: and to find local training you could call the office.
          Here we keep a close watch on the Doppler radar, since severe thunderstorms and tornadic activity is possible. You have several radar sites you can watch, starting here:
          Stay safe.

          • November 11, 2018 at 5:28 am

            Sorry for the duplicate post; but, my post was not showing up after several hours so I tried again and it looks like everything finally posted later. I think your hosting provider’s server was running a bit slow.

          • November 11, 2018 at 7:57 am

            Hi Ohio Prepper, actually I have to approve the comments. I’m a bit slow right now because of multiple eye surgeries. Sometimes people can leave some not so kind words and therefore I do not want them on my website. I delete them. Linda

    • November 10, 2018 at 9:10 pm

      I’ve been doing Skywarn for more than 40 years as an Amateur radio operator; but, with the advent of social media and cell phones, Skywarn is now open to any and all who want to take the free training, since you can still observe and report your own situation back to the local NWS office. Here, we have several wide area coverage amateur radio repeaters where we run nets during inclement weather. If you have local nets inyour area, even if you are not a ham, you can listen and along with NWS online radar can get a good idea of the weather around you and potentially affecting you.
      From my perspective, CERT, Skywarn and any other training just puts another arrow in your self reliance / preparedness quiver.

  • November 10, 2018 at 9:12 am

    Linda, as of two days ago I am CERT certified and an Oregon My PI instructor. Your post was a good summary and review for me. My PI (not pie, p then i standing for Preparedness Initiative) is a three part program to teach older teens emergency preparedness. First, they receive CERT training, then have the option of obtaining their 1st Aid card and AED training. Along the way they are exposed to career paths of adults involved in responder positions. The last program requirement is a community service project where they work with their family to create a 72 hour kit and then reach out to 6 other families to help them each create a 72 hour kit. The goal is Oregon is to graduate 125 kids by next August so in a perfect world, 875 families could be better prepared in less than a year. As kids go through the program they most importantly learn leadership, team work, confidence in what they can do, life skills, civic engagement and so much more. It’s ideal for schools but also youth programs such as 4-H. Here’s a link if you’d like more information ( The program is a national program and there could be a group in your area.

    While my certification is in Oregon, I live in rural Washington and I am interested in doing something like you did – Map Your Neighborhood. For my area I like the adjustments for Rural Settings as our neighbors aren’t close by. I would map the 5 closest properties. Map Your Neighborhood is also a national program and can be easily found through a Google search. Washington State Emergency Management is where I found a discussion guide, the adjustments for rural settings, and participants guide.

    Thought I’d share as I know your outreach is far and wide. Thanks for your CERT post. FYI – CERT classes are hard to get folks to take here as well.

    • November 10, 2018 at 11:12 am

      Hi Debbie, oh my gosh, I had no idea there were this many programs available!! This is awesome! This is the best thing I have heard for the youth in years! Go Washington Stae!!! I love this comment! Thank you, Linda

    • November 10, 2018 at 11:16 am

      Hi Debbie, sorry I just had eye surgery, and I went and showed your comment to my husband, it should go OREGON!! I can’t see right now. I had stents put in both eyes (Glaucoma) and lenses put in both eyes to replace cataracts. Your comment is amazing!!! Linda

      • November 10, 2018 at 11:19 am

        I’m sure I knew what you meant – go Oregon and Washington! Sending wishes for a speedy recovery and that your eyesight is better than ever.

  • November 10, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    It’s good to see more people taking the training. I took my formal CERT classes early this year; but, as a volunteer for our county Emergency Management Organization, we had already covered the basics; however, the formal class does give us good procedures to follow. One thing I’ve taken as part of EMA and as an ARES / RACES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services / Radio Amateurs Civil Emergency Services) member, are the FEMA ICS (Incident Management System) courses. These are free online courses offered by FEMA and while they are required for our local EMA / ARES / RACES, they can be very beneficial for CERT members. NIMS, the National Incident Management System training is taken by all first responders, and is the reason a fire or SAR team can be sent from Ohio to Utah in an emergency and simply drop into place, ready to work. While CERT members may not be as involved in the aftermath, knowing the UCS / NIMS system can help you, help the first responders.

    When you state in part:

    These numbers are scary, we can’t depend on anyone but ourselves. Please check out your local numbers. You might just be as surprised as I was when I saw the reality of the situation.

    Emphasis mine; but, that is a good attitude to start with in any venture. Around here I’ve taught and helped teach preparedness classes, with the emphasis on the 72 hour kit, and being able to keep yourself alive until help can get to you. When a disaster strikes, being prepared can also help your neighbors, since first responders, including CERT members can check on you, and if you are squared away, can move on to those who do need help, so your being prepared is essentially a force multiplier.
    I hadn’t seen the 4-in-1 Multi Tool on Amazon; but, our issued kits contain one of the tools and the only thing I had to add / replace was the lame flashlight in the kit, since the inexpensive assortment of LED flashlights and headlamps we have available now, are rather incredible.

    we have 5 people in our neighborhood trained now. I am thankful to the other three people who will help us if needed. Most emergency or medical people will be at the hospitals or other emergency set up areas when a disaster hits.

    Our Rural neighbor hood is huge, so CERT here doesn’t work quite like a city neighborhood; but, I am blessed to have my immediate neighbors who are a medically train couple. He is a fire chief / paramedic and she is a paramedic / nurse practitioner. Our here we don’t often get broken sewage pupes or gas lines, since most homes have wells, septic system, and either propane or fuel oil tanks, and are rather self contained.
    I also have additional tools like a stethoscope and suturing kit, and more than a case of n95 masks supplied by our county EMA, plus lot of antiseptic and bandaging materials, many of which may be purchased at the local Dollar Tree to fill out the FAK.
    Whether you have enough people to fill out a team or not, CERT, in addition to basic CPR, First Aid, and possibly AED training, will help anyone be more prepared for any emergency.
    Finally if you can get your amateur radio (AKA ham radio) license that can give you another option for communications when the cell phones no longer work; but, even getting the inexpensive unlicensed FRS radios, can help a team or neighborhoods communicate; but, like any skill, this takes practice, especially in the chaos of an emergency.

    • November 11, 2018 at 5:03 am

      Hi Ohio Prepper, thanks for the great comment, I really feel the more knowledge we can learn the better off we will ALL be. Thanks again, Linda

    • November 11, 2018 at 5:04 am

      P.S. Ohio Prepper, I want to get a Ham Radio license and equipment. Thanks for the reminder. I just need to do it! Linda

  • November 11, 2018 at 7:33 am

    A GREAT post and awesome comments. Thanks everyone. California is again, or should I say still on fire! I wish more would read this and react! We need each other, not just in emergencies. The youth really should get active and can be great assets to our neighborhoods and communities. We have a ham radio check in Sunday evenings set up thru our church ward. I believe we have 35 operators, men, women and youth. You don’t need to do all that is mentioned, but you do need to start somewhere. Learning and preparing even one area is better than none. I’m 63 and am still learning and preparing. Thank you Linda. Keep up your great work.

    • November 11, 2018 at 8:03 am

      Oh, Debra, you are so lucky to have Sunday evening check-ins with ham radio operators!! I’m praying for all the California families, firefighters, and first responders. I don’t remember a year with so many fires, this is so tragic for all involved. Thanks again for your kind words, they mean so much to me. Linda

  • November 11, 2018 at 9:18 am

    Sounds like a good program. I was a bit disappointed in the Triage video. I took a Dark Angel Medical course. We learned as you evaluate you need to ask name, do they know where they are, what are you injures and be as specific as possible. The guy that was doubled up they didn’t appear to really evaluate him, they didn’t have him move his hand from his head. Was his head bleeding, can he tell you what the head wound was caused by, they didn’t ask about why his chest was hurting, did he have a wound to the chest, did it feel like a heart attack, etc. If the mans head was bleeding profusely they should apply pressure and some sort of wrap to stop bleeding until the professional arrive. I don’t know what they carry in their bags but they should have a tourniquet, scissors & stop bleeding powder. Will watch the other video.

    • November 11, 2018 at 9:40 am

      Hi Libby, it’s interesting we all learn from different teachers when we take these classes in CERT. The teacher I liked the best was a Psychiatric doctor or nurse. She taught me more than I learned from the whole class about dealing with people after the disasters. The teachers teach the classes without being paid, I’m grateful for what I did learn. I know they provide ongoing classes so you can pick up new tips each time. Knowledge is everything to me. Thanks for your comment. Linda

  • November 12, 2018 at 8:06 am

    Hi Ohio Prepper, actually I have to approve the comments. I’m a bit slow right now because of multiple eye surgeries. Sometimes people can leave some not so kind words and therefore I do not want them on my website. I delete them. Linda

    I totally understand and have to complement you on your normal efficiency, since that delay seemed abnormal. I know of a few other sites that place the comments in moderation and list the comment as such until the person has posted enough to earn the trust of the site owner / moderator.
    I really understand your eye issues, since I’m also visually impaired with my major experimental surgeries occurring about 15 years ago.
    In any case, keep up the good work, since there are still too many people who don’t think personal preparedness is important.

    • November 12, 2018 at 9:03 am

      Hi, Ohio Prepper, this eye surgery stuff not fun! I took my eyes for granted until this last year. Blessings, Linda


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