You never know when an emergency will strike your community—which is why early preparation, community education, and constant vigilance are essential to keeping people safe. One of the most effective ways of preparing people in your organization for emergencies is to involve them directly in the education, and response process. If your company has not already established a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), learn what it takes to effectively implement a CERT that enables your citizens to become an active part of their safety and preparedness.

What is a CERT?

CERTs are composed of volunteer employees who actively participate in classroom exercises to learn critical emergency response skills and commit to helping serve their workplace following a disaster activity when professional responders are not immediately available.

Properly trained CERT members can serve as extensions of professional emergency teams, giving critical support to first responders, providing immediate assistance to victims, organizing spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site, and helping with non-emergency projects that help improve the safety of the community.

CERT Training

A trained team of professional first responders who have completed a CERT Train-the-Trainer course conducted by their state training office for emergency management, or by FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI), should instruct all future CERT trainers. At the individual participant level, communities should encourage all citizens to take the CERT course to become better educated on how to respond immediately after a disaster to protect themselves, their families, their neighbors, and their community.

How to Set Up a CERT in Your Community

If you are ready to add a CERT to your community to enable citizens to act confidently in response to an unexpected disaster, then follow the steps below to plan and launch with success.

Identify Program Goals

Start by identifying the program goals of your CERT. Include quantifiable elements such as:

  • The number of initial trainers
  • The number of initial volunteers
  • Launch date

Conduct a Hazard Analysis

Conduct a hazard analysis to determine the types of risks your community is most likely to face. For example, your area may be highly susceptible to floods, wildfires, snowstorms, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Use the results of your hazard analysis to prioritize and tailor volunteer CERT team training to ensure the greatest effectiveness.

Register Your CERT

Register your CERT on FEMA’s National Citizen Responder Programs Registration site at The program helps registered CERT program managers to operate their CERT programs and citizen corps councils properly.

 Team Structure in Incident Command System of Emergency Management   

This organizational chart reflects a large emergency management team under this system.

In this emergency management team structure, the incident commander or command team oversees the emergency response and sub-teams (or, in small organizations, individuals instead of sub-teams). The sub-teams have their own leaders and are in charge of operations, planning and intelligence, logistics, and finance. Below are details of each sub-team, an action that best sums up the area of responsibility, and the departments that the sub-team draws from:

Command (Manages)

  • Manage overall crisis response.
  • Determine priorities and objectives.
  • Direct and control group.
  • Obtain resources.
  • Coordinate with executive leadership.
  • Settle disputes and conflicts.
  • Take direction from the incident commander.
  • The team includes a spokesperson, a safety chief, and an executive liaison.

Operations (Does)

  • Handle the tactical operations in the crisis response.
  • Perform initial damage assessment.
  • Oversee frontline responders.
  • Establish control over the situation.
  • Compile status reports.
  • Seek to restore the business or operation to normal.
  • Include key areas of operations, such as facilities, security, IT, safety, and real estate.

Planning and Intelligence (Plans)

  • Gather, analyze, and share information on the crisis.
  • Assess status reports.
  • Recommend action.
  • Include business continuity staff, corporate communications, legal, investor relations, and representatives of key lines of business.

Logistics (Cares)

  • Support human needs, such as food, shelter, transportation, medical care, and counseling for the crisis team and the organization.
  • Team includes representatives from HR, travel department, meeting services, and employee assistance program.

Finance (Pays)

  • Track and document all costs and expenditures of the crisis response.
  • Handle payroll, emergency purchase orders, cash needs, and purchasing cards.
  • Coordinate with insurance on claims and worker’s compensation.
  • Provide administrative support.

Team includes finance, risk, insurance, payroll, treasury, and procurement functions.


Communicate with affected individuals on WHAT is happening, WHERE it’s happening, and how they can RESPOND, to reduce the vulnerability gap.

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What To Expect from PROTECT:

  • Reduces vulnerability gaps through instantaneous and automated recommended actions and instructions during situations where communication is critical.
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  • Communicates and amplifies alerts, messaging, and ERP via automated and/or manual sensors, digital displays, software, and mobile apps.

Contact Havrion