Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services may not be able to meet the demand for these services. Factors such as number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages, may prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect through the 911 system. People will have to rely on each other for help to meet their immediate lifesaving and life sustaining needs.
The Community Emergency Response Team concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. Two years later, the Whittier Narrows earthquake underscored the area-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Furthermore, it confirmed the need to train civilians to meet their immediate needs. As a result, the LAFD created the Disaster Preparedness Division with the purpose of training citizens for disaster response.
The training program that LAFD initiated furthers the process of citizens understanding their responsibility in preparing for disaster. It also increases their ability to safely help themselves, their family, and their neighbors. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognizes the importance of preparing citizens. The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and the National Fire Academy (NFA) adopted and expanded the CERT materials trusting them applicable to all hazards.
The CERT Program and Basic CERT Course will benefit any citizen who takes it. This individual will be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster. Since 1993, when this training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 28 States and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training.
In January 2002, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, United States President George Bush introduced the U.S. Citizen Corps Program to encourage volunteerism and a sense of civic duty within the public. Citizen Corps is comprised of several volunteer programs including Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), Neighborhood Watch, Fire Corps, and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program.