Community Emergency Response Team
After completing the course, CERTs will be able to provide immediate assistance to handle small fires, turn off utilities, give basic first aid, perform light search and rescue, and collect information to provide arriving professional first responders. Participants find the class engaging, fun, and very informative. For details on what happens during the class, see the Curriculum Overview below.
“Mill Valley CERT Team volunteers will make a material difference to the survival of Mill Valley during a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, fire, or flood. Residents trained in CERT will assist the Fire Department in ensuring the safety of those who live in Mill Valley.”
Jeff Davidson, Fire Chief, Mill Valley
Note: You can do the CERT training and in a disaster only take care of your family. Although we hope that you’ll step up to help out in your neighborhood and some of you in the larger community, this is a volunteer position. You are not required to be deployed into the community and provide services. If you have questions, contact us or check out the Frequently Asked Questions.
CERT Curriculum Overview
The content for the CERT class is the same no matter where you take it. Classes are usually a combination of one weekday evening and two Saturdays, or two longer weekend days. Attendance to all sessions is required to be CERT trained and qualify as a Disaster Service Worker. Whichever class you attend, the curriculum will cover the six areas below.
Learn how CERT got started in California and in Marin County. If a number of CERTs report to a check-in point after an earthquake, how do you decide who will be in charge? How do you form teams and decide where to go? Where do your tools come from? Where are the forms that you will use to document your actions? There is a system in place and you’ll learn all about it. You’ll learn how CERT uses the Incident Command System, as do all public safety personnel, to manage their teams and document their progress. Since your safety is the number one rule, you’ll learn about how to size-up a scene before deciding if it’s safe to enter an area or a building to help other residents.
Learn about the most commonly seen injuries in disaster situations, how to safely (for you and the victim) lift and transport a victim to a safer area for treatment. Demonstrations will be given to assess injuries, understand the concept of triage, and how to prioritize multiple victims based on the severity of their injuries. Finally, you’ll learn basic first aid to begin treatment of injuries.
It is important to note that the CERT training is not a first aid certification course. We encourage all CERTs to go further with their training and take a first aid class through American Heart Association, Red Cross or National Safety Council.
Your instructor will review the basics of fire chemistry and the equipment and techniques used for extinguishing fires. You’ll have the opportunity to practice putting out a fire with a fire extinguisher and how to work safely in fire conditions. You’ll also be introduced to information about hazardous materials.
You’ll be provided with the basics in assessing a building to decide whether it’s safe to enter to help someone who is trapped. Your safety is paramount since we don’t want you to become another victim. You’ll learn from firefighters about the tools they use to enter a damaged building, how to use a ladder safely and about cribbing, a technique used to lift a very heavy object safely. You’ll see demonstrations on search techniques and once victims are located, you’ll review lifting and transporting guidelines.
The last part of the training is a simulation which provides an opportunity to practice what you’ve learned: how to organize into teams, how to conduct a scene size-up, how to suppress small fires, how to search a building for victims and once found, how to lift and transport those victims. Finally how to triage and treat injured victims.
Most classes have two simulations so you have the chance to learn from the first one and to practice two different roles. Examples of forms are used so students can practice documenting their plans and actions. Discussions follow focused on lessons learned and opportunities for advancing these skills.
You can download the CERT training materials at any time to read or review.
- CERT Basic Student Manual (pdf)
- Unit 1: Introduction (PowerPoint)
- Unit 2: CERT Organization (PowerPoint)
- Unit 3: Disaster Medical Operations (PowerPoint)
- Unit 4: Fire Safety and Suppression (PowerPoint)
- Unit 5: Light Search and Rescue (PowerPoint)
- Manual del Participante de CERT Capacitación Básica (pdf)
- Diapositivas de PowerPoint de CERT Capacitación Básica (pdf)
Meet CERT Graduates
I had been volunteering with Red Cross for about 2 months in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina made landfall. After 3 months of active response work and literally thousands of evacuees housed in the Bay Area, I realized I needed to connect locally and took the CERT training. I’ve been the Training Officer for Mill Valley’s CERT program, sat on the steering committee, and even created the first ever Ready Mill Valley Backyard Campout.
Now in my third community of CERT involvement (SF, Mill Valley, and San Rafael), being part of the CERT response is also part of my family’s emergency plan. I was raised in a family where service to your community was highly valued, and the training and skills provided by the CERT program not only leave me better prepared to take care of my own family, but also to help my neighbors and friends survive the next “Big One”. CERT gives me the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be, as my 3 year old son would say ‘a really useful engine’. Each time I see a news report of a disaster somewhere in the world, it’s a vivid reminder of the people I worked with after Katrina, the homes destroyed, the families scattered, the lives lost. I hope you’ll join me in helping our community by planning your family response and learning some emergency response skills with our CERT program.
Tomales High School
Being given the opportunity to take the Community Emergency Response Team class was a fascinating and enlightening experience. Throughout the day, my fellow students and I were taught many useful skills, including how to put out small fires, how to administer basic first-aid and triage, and how to support our community members after an emergency. Overall, I found the class to be helpful and incredibly informative. Knowing what to do in the event of a fire, storm, or earthquake is empowering and I would highly recommend this class to anyone.
I was already a neighborhood liaison for my Area 12 Bolinas Fire Disaster Council in 2005 when I decided to become CERT trained. In 2011, I became the Area 12 Coordinator. In 2013 I was hired by three West Marin Fire Departments and Marin County Fire to be the West Marin Disaster Council Coordinator and CERT Coordinator for West Marin.
CERT is important because it teaches you how to prepare for disasters and how to help yourself, your family and your neighborhood get ready for and handle emergencies. I learned the importance of “#1”, that is taking care of myself first, so I avoid becoming another casualty and I can then take care of others. The primary roles of a CERT member are to promote calm, do the greatest good for the greatest number and keep exact records of what is done so professional responders are given accurate information.
As the West Marin Disaster Council Coordinator, I am learning about the disaster response resources we have in West Marin and helping our agencies and communities share their experiences and “lessons learned” from drills and real-life events.
Your communities and fire departments are only as ready as YOU are! Everyone has a role to play, regardless of age or experience. Take the training!