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What is CERT?


Local government prepares for everyday emergencies. However, during a disaster, the number and scope of incidents can overwhelm conventional emergency response services. The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program is an all-risk, all-hazard training program designed to give you the skills and knowledge to help you protect yourself, your family in an emergency or disaster situation.  CERT Basic Training Course graduates may also volunteer to be activated by the city to assist with the response effort during a major emergency or a disaster.


CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where people will initially be on their own and their actions can make a difference. While people will respond to others in need without the training, one goal of the CERT program is to help them do so effectively, efficiently and safely. In the CERT training, students learn to:

  • Prepare for emergencies and disasters

  • Manage utilities and put out small fires

  • Treat the three medical killers by:

    • opening airways

    • controlling excessive bleeding

    • treating for shock

  • Provide basic disaster medical aid

  • Search for and rescue victims safely

  • Organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective

  • Conduct rapid assessment of neighborhood damage to aid disaster response efforts

Why do the CERT training?


Well, it’s like paying for car insurance. You might never need either; you’d hope not to. But if the occasion arises, having the CERT training, just like having car insurance, means you’re as ready as you can be to help yourself, your family and your neighborhood.  CERT training can be fun and rewarding in other ways too.


How do I join?


To join CERT you'll need to take the CERT Basic Training Course.  CERT Basic Training Course students receive 22 hours  of initial training. that is followed by monthly training meetings, various disaster drills and opportunities to train with other groups.

CERT Basic Training is provided free of charge by Gilroy CERT to anyone 18 or older, or 12 to 17 years old with a parent or legal guardian taking the classes with them. Use the "Contact" page to let us know that you'd like to attend a Basic Training class.

Classes are taught on various schedules several times yearly in Gilroy and Morgan Hill.  Schedules and registration information are found under the CERT Basic Training Course page.  If you miss a class, you can go to any other location to make it up. When you arrive at the make-up session, inform the instructor that you are making up a class.

You can also organize a class for your neighborhood, business or community group. You need a minimum of 20 people to be trained and a location to hold the training. Use the "Contact" page to let us know that you'd like to have us provide a class to your group.

The Gilroy Community Emergency Response Team does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. 

How did CERT start?



The idea to train volunteers from the community to assist emergency service personnel during large natural disasters began. In February of 1985, a group of Los Angeles City officials went to Japan to study its extensive earthquake preparedness plans. The group encountered an extremely homogeneous society that had taken extensive steps to train entire neighborhoods in one aspect of alleviating the potential devastation that would follow a major earthquake. These single-function neighborhood teams were trained in either fire suppression, light search and rescue operations, first aid, or evacuation.

In September of 1985, a Los Angeles City investigation team was sent to Mexico City following an earthquake there that registered a magnitude 8.1 on the Richter scale and killed more than 10,000 people and injured more than 30,000. Mexico City had no training program for citizens prior to the disaster. However, large groups of volunteers organized themselves and performed light search and rescue operations. Volunteers are credited with more than 800 successful rescues; unfortunately, in just a single location more than 100 of these untrained volunteers died during the 15-day rescue operation.

The lessons learned in Mexico City strongly indicated that a plan to train volunteers to help themselves and others, and become an adjunct to government response, was needed as an essential part of overall preparedness, survival, and recovery.



The City of Los Angeles Fire Department developed a pilot program to train a group of leaders in a neighborhood watch organization. A concept developed involving multi-functional volunteer response teams with the ability to perform basic fire suppression, light search and rescue, and first aid. This first team of 30 people completed training in early 1986 and proved that the concept was viable through various drills, demonstrations, and exercises. Expansion of the program, however, was not feasible due to limited City resources, until an event occurred in 1987 that impacted the entire area.



On October 1, 1987, the Whittier Narrows earthquake vividly underscored the threat of an area-wide major disaster, and demonstrated the need to expedite the training of civilians to prepare for earthquakes and other emergencies. Following the Whittier Narrows earthquake, the City of Los Angeles took an aggressive role in protecting the inhabitants of Los Angeles by creating the Disaster Preparedness Division (now the Disaster Preparedness Section) within the Los Angeles Fire Department. Their objectives included:

  • Educate and train the public and government sectors in disaster preparedness

  • Research, evaluate, and disseminate disaster information

  • Develop, train, and maintain a network of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs).



The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decided to make the concept and program available to communities nationwide. The Emergency Management Institute (EMI), in cooperation with the LAFD, expanded the CERT materials to make them applicable to all hazards.



In January 2002, CERT became part of the Citizen Corps, a unifying structure to link a variety of related volunteer activities to expand a community’s resources for crime prevention and emergency response.



As of November 2011, 50 states, three territories and six foreign countries are using the CERT training.


There are over 2,700 local CERT programs nationwide, with more than 600,000 individuals trained since CERT became a national program.

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