“Working Together, So Others May Live” 

Community Emergency Response Team


Following a major disaster or emergency, public safety personnel may not be able to meet all of the demands for services required. Factors such as number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect at a moment’s notice via “911.” It is also expected that under disaster circumstances, people will spontaneously try to help each other. 

Such was the case following the Mexico City earthquake where untrained, spontaneous volunteers saved 800 people, however, 100 people lost their lives while attempting to save others.   This is a high price to pay and is preventable through training.  If we can predict that emergency services may not be able to meet immediate needs following a major disaster and that people will spontaneously volunteer, what can be done to prepare a group of citizens for this eventuality?        CERT !

The Community Emergency Response Team concept was developed and implemented in Los Angeles, California.   The Federal Emergency Management Agency recognizing the importance of the program has adopted and expanded the CERT materials to cover all hazards.  The individual taking this course will benefit by being better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster.  The CERT training is advantageous not only to individuals but to community groups, businesses and civic associations as well.

The United States Search and Rescue Task Force is the premier search and rescue, disaster response and educational department in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, The District of Columbia and Maryland and, is proud to be one of the first departments in these states to offer this FEMA training to other agencies and public groups, as well as providing a CERT team and coordinating the CERT Task Force.

Training is offered at two levels.  The basic CERT program consists of 21 hours and is available to those civilians requesting the skills necessary to be a successful part of emergency preparedness and response in order to assist during the first 72 hours following a disaster.  The basic program focuses on becoming self sufficient after a disaster, community preparedness and incorporates lectures, video training, hands on skills training and exercises in areas such as light search and rescue operations, damage assessment, fire suppression, psychology of disasters, disaster medical operations, etc.

The advanced CERT program consists of 45 hours (including basic), also taken emergency service personnel which not only expands their education but, familiarizes them with the CERT training and also shows them exactly how CERT’s can be utilized, having gone through the training with them.  The advanced training consists of the basic 21 hour CERT core curriculum program and the following modules:  8 hours of Emergency Response to Terrorism, 4 hours of Hazardous Materials Awareness, 4 hours of Structural Collapse Operations Awareness and 8 hours of First Aid/CPR. 

Those emergency service personnel having current certification in any of the advanced modules may be granted a waiver.  Certificates are issued for successful completion of both the 21 and 45 hour programs.  Classes are usually held in 8 hour modules and may also be tailored to certain groups. Agencies and organizations wishing to submit an application to the U.S. SAR Task Force to become a member of the CERT Task Force, may do so.

The CERT Task Force is comprised of numerous certified CERT teams in four states that can mutual aid and assist each other in times of disaster or emergency if called upon to do so.

Instructors for the CERT training program consist of those from the fire, military, search and rescue and law enforcement community.   Materials are required for the course and a fee is required for those that do not have the required equipment (hard hat, crescent wrench, safety vest, goggles, gloves, fire extinguisher, etc.) which will be used during the sessions.  By doing this for each session, participants are also building a disaster response kit of items that they will need and use during a disaster.  

CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens may be initially on their own and, their actions can make a difference.   Through training, you will be able to manage emergencies and organize spontaneous volunteers to be effective.

The CERT training is offered throughout the year by the U.S. SAR Task Force at various locations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, The District of Columbia, New York and Delaware. 

Should you have a group that is interested in this training, we can arrange to train your group privately.  For further information on this intensive and much needed training, please contact our headquarters at:  215-922-7225  or forward an e-mail to us at:


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