The CERT concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985. The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Further, it confirmed the need for training civilians to meet their immediate needs.
Since 1993 when this training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 states and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training. FEMA supports CERT by conducting or sponsoring Train-the-Trainer and Program Manager courses for members of the fire, medical and emergency management community.
The CERT basic training course covers the following topics as listed below and provides a foundation for the team to build upon. The training also includes, but is not limited to, preparing for the conditions related to the region and takes into consideration the change in weather patterns and other potential issues that you may be faced with in an emergency or disaster situation.
- Disaster Preparedness: Addresses hazards specific to the community. Materials cover actions that participants and their families take before, during and after a disaster as well as an overview of CERT and local laws governing volunteers.
- Fire Suppression: Covers fire chemistry, hazardous materials, fire hazards and fire suppression strategies. However, the thrust of this session is the safe use of fire extinguishers, controlling utilities and extinguishing a small fire.
- Medical Operations Part I: Participants practice diagnosing and treating airway obstruction, bleeding and shock by using simple triage and rapid treatment techniques.
- Medical Operations Part II: Covers evaluating patients by doing a head to toe assessment, establishing a medical treatment area and performing basic first aid.
- Light Search and Rescue Operations: Participants learn about search and rescue planning, size-up, search techniques, rescue techniques and rescuer safety.
- Psychology and Team Organization: Covers signs and symptoms that might be experienced by the disaster victim and workers, and addresses CERT organization and management.
- Course Review and Disaster Simulation: Participants review and practice the skills that they have learned during the previous six sessions in a disaster activity.