Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)
Frequently Asked Questions
- I'm already a volunteer or career EMT/Firefighter/Police Officer. Can I help train the CERT Teams?
If you are interested in becoming a part of the instructional team for the local CERT, contact your municipal emergency management coordinator, or the county CERT Coordinators listed above.
- I'm a municipal emergency management coordinator. Can I use a CERT to address other emergency management needs ? Can team members respond to the EOC and help with phones, conduct damage assessment, etc.?
This is a question the community must address during the planning stages of its CERT program. Some individuals will be very willing to assist in the EOC or help out with tasks outside their home or neighborhood. Others will not. The core principle of CERT is "neighbor helping neighbor," but if you view an expanded mission for the CERT, then you must discuss it with potential team members. FEMA's website provides examples of how CERT teams are used across the country.
Another alternative is to provide [optional] additional training for CERT members who are willing to meet help out the municipality with basic emergency management tasks.
Two key points to remember are:
- The CERT mission should meet the needs and expectations of individuals who want to volunteer. This will enhance recruitment and retention of team members.
- CERT team members must be provided adequate training for the job they are expected to perform.
- Is funding available for CERT Teams?
New Jersey receives federal grant funding from the Department of Homeland Security to support the Citizen Corps/CERT initiative. Working through the state, county, and local network of Citizen Corp Councils, these monies will be utilized to fund CERT training programs and equip the instructors and students with the materials needed to support training. A population based formula has been utilized to award the funding to New Jersey. The New Jersey program will emphasize "performance based funding" whereby those counties and municipalities that are actively endorsing and participating in the program will receive a larger share of the support resources available.
In a few communities, CERT organization have formed IRS 501(c)3 organizations for non-profit status. This allows them to conduct fund raising and accept donations.
- What's the difference between CERT, Citizen Corps, and Freedom Corps?
Freedom Corps is the Federal Government's effort to "...enhance opportunities for Americans to serve their neighbors and their nation." Its major program components are AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, The Peace Corps, and Citizen Corps.
Citizen Corps is designed to engage citizens in the Homeland Security effort. Programs represented under the Citizen Corps program are: Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, the Medical Reserve Corps, Operation TIPS, Citizen Corps Councils and the CERT Program. New Jersey's Citizen Corps Coordinator is Howard Butt, Emergency Response Specialist, Public Assistance and Support Services Unit, Recovery Bureau for the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management.
- What about liability?
If you are an municipal emergency management or public safety official, it is wise to speak with your municipal attorney about any and all volunteer management issues while the program is under development. FEMA's website provides a discussion paper on CERT and liability.