In the United States a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) can refer to
Sometimes programs and organizations take different names, such as neighborhood emergency response team (NERT), or neighborhood emergency team (NET).
- one of five federal programs promoted under the umbrella organization Citizen Corps, which is funded in part by the Stafford Act;
- an implementation of the federal CERT program, administered by a local sponsoring agency, which receives Stafford grant funding, and provides standardized training and an implementation framework to community members;
- an organization of volunteer emergency workers who have received specific training in basic disaster response skills, and who agree to supplement existing emergency responders in the event of a major disaster.
The concept of civilian auxiliaries is similar to civil defense, which has a longer history. The CERT concept differs because it includes nonmilitary emergencies, and is coordinated with all levels of emergency authorities, local to national, via an overarching incident command system.
The basic idea is to use CERT to perform the large number of tasks needed in emergencies. This frees highly trained professional responders for more technical tasks. Much of CERT training concerns the Incident Command System and organization, so CERT members fit easily into larger command structures.
A team may self-activate (self-deploy) when their own neighborhood is affected by disaster. An effort is made to report their response status to the sponsoring agency. A self-activated team will size-up the loss in their neighborhood and begin performing the skills they have learned to minimize further loss of life, property, and environment. They will continue to respond safely until redirected or relieved by the sponsoring agency or professional responders on-scene.
Teams in neighborhoods not affected by disaster may be deployed or activated by the sponsoring agency. The sponsoring agency may communicate with neighborhood CERT leaders through an organic communication team. In some areas the communications may be by amateur radio, FRS, GMRS or MURS radio, dedicated telephone or fire-alarm networks. In other areas, relays of bicycle-equipped runners can effectively carry mail between the teams and the local emergency operations center.
The sponsoring agency may activate and dispatch teams in order to gather or respond to intelligence about an incident. Teams may be dispatched to affected neighborhoods, or organized to support operations. CERT members may augment support staff at an incident command post or Emergency Operations Center. Additional teams may also be created to guard the morgue, locate supplies and food, convey messages to and from other CERT teams and local authorities, and other duties on an as-needed basis as identified by the team leader.
In the short term, CERTs perform data gathering, especially to locate mass-casualties requiring professional response, or situations requiring professional rescues, simple fire-fighting tasks (for example, small fires, turning off gas), light search and rescue, damage evaluation of structures, triage and first aid. In the longer term, CERTs may assist in the evacuation of residents, or assist with setting up a neighborhood shelter.