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helping our communities when disaster strikes

What Is CERT?

A Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a team of volunteers, trained and equipped to help their community during a disaster when professional emergency services are overloaded. The 24-hour FEMA training curriculum includes scene safety, team organization, disaster medical treatment, fire safety and suppression, psychological first aid, search and rescue, and response to terrorist incidents.

There are a number of CERT programs in Santa Clara County. Every city in the county has one, and some large colleges, universities, and workplaces have one as well. All of the teams in the county cooperate for drills, refresher training, and mutual aid if needed.

The CERT program was created by the Los Angeles Fire Department after seeing the excessive loss of life to untrained volunteer responders in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. Their goal was to ensure that volunteers know how to respond safely and effectively to disasters. The program spread nationwide, and was adopted and expanded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1994.

The CERT program is equal opportunity, and CERT training is available to anyone over the age of 18, regardless of personal characteristics or access or functional needs. For those under the age of 18, the town of Los Altos Hills offers a special Teen CERT program.

How to Get Started

There are many CERT programs in Santa Clara County. Typically you would join the one in the city where you live, since that’s where you're most likely to be when a disaster strikes. Some people prefer to join the one at their college, university, or workplace instead.

To join any of our CERT programs, you need to complete the 24-hour CERT Basic Training class. Classes are offered year-round, throughout the county; check our training calendar for upcoming classes. It’s generally best to take the class offered by the program you plan to join. But if some other city’s class meets your needs better, that’s OK — they all teach the same FEMA curriculum.

Once you've completed the CERT Basic Training, you’ll be eligible to join your local CERT program. Please note that individual programs will likely have additional requirements, such as background checks or additional city-specific training. Your CERT program will also want you to register as a Disaster Service Worker under California law; this can provide medical insurance coverage under certain circumstances while training or responding as a CERT team member.

After you’ve joined your local CERT program, you are invited to attend refresher training sessions and drills to keep your skills and knowledge current. Most refresher training sessions are open to any CERT member in the county; check the training calendar for a list.