CERT Program

Community Emergency Response Team

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program helps train people to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations in their communities. When emergencies happen, CERT members can give critical support to first responders, provide immediate assistance to victims, and organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site. CERT members can also help with non-emergency projects that help improve the safety of the community.

The CERT course is taught in the community by a trained team of first responders who have completed a CERT Train-the-Trainer course conducted by their state training office for emergency management, or FEMA's Emergency Management Institute (EMI), located in Emmitsburg, Maryland. CERT training includes disaster preparedness, disaster fire suppression, basic disaster medical operations, and light search and rescue operations.

Over the next two years, the CERT program aims to double the number of participants, with over 400,000 individuals completing the 20 plus hours of training. Train-the-Trainer sessions will be held in all 56 states and territories over the next year to expand the program throughout the United States.

What is The Medical Reserve Corps?
The Medical Reserve Corps is one of several components of Citizen Corps, USA Freedom Corps.  It is a network of community-based, citizen volunteer Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units, which have been initiated and established by people and institutions for use in their communities.   Medical Reserve Corps units provide health professionals and others an organized mechanism through which they can volunteer their time and skills to strengthen their communities by preparing for and responding to large-scale emergencies, such as an influenza epidemic, chemical spill, or act of terrorism.  In addition, MRC unit volunteers work to improve the overall health and well being of their communities by engaging in appropriate public health initiatives throughout the year.

Why is it needed?
After September 11, thousands of Americans responded by volunteering to help in any way they could.  Many more Americans asked, “What can I do to help?”  The Medical Reserve Corps will bring volunteers – health professionals and others – together to supplement existing local emergency plans and resources in cities, towns, and counties throughout the United States.  In order to be most effective during times of emergency, volunteers must be organized and trained to work in emergency situations.  The Medical Reserve Corps is designed to provide that organizational structure and promote appropriate training of volunteers for communities.

Who is responsible for the program?
President Bush tasked the Department of Health and Human Services, under Secretary Tommy Thompson, with developing and implementing the MRC.  Secretary Thompson designated the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG) to take lead responsibility within HHS to develop a program to promote and support the development of the Medical Reserve Corps.  The Office of the Surgeon General undertook this responsibility in March 2002.  The OSG has already established a demonstration project under which grants of up to $50,000 were awarded to 42 eligible community-based organizations in 27 states.  The grantee organizations included both governmental offices and non-governmental organizations.  It is hoped that, subject to an appropriation of funds from Congress, additional grants will be awarded in FY 2003.

Additionally, a mechanism has been established to provide technical assistance to communities that are establishing Medical Reserve Corps units.  A guidance document entitled Medical Reserve Corps – A Guide for Local Leaders was issued in November 2002, and a monthly Newsletter will be available beginning in December 2002.