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The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training is a national program to train citizens to help fill the gap between a disaster or emergency, and the arrival of professional services.

Community Emergency Response Team

Marin County CERTIn the event of major disaster, our first responders will be overwhelmed so it's critical citizens be prepared to take care of themselves, their neighbors, and their community for 5-7 days. The CERT training teaches you how to help after a disaster.

The course is 18 hours, usually taught over two days for $50. 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 necessary information to 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


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.

18 hours

The training is 18 hours, $45, and is offered throughout Marin County in various time configurations. You may attend a class anywhere in the County.

Basic First Aid

Stop bleeding, check respiration, learn how to splint. Basic first aid is taught to save lives, and both assess and log injuries to report to first responders when they arrive.

Manage Small Fires

Have you ever used a fire extinguisher? In the CERT training, you are taught to use one and even put out a real fire. Importantly, you’ll also learn when it’s best to evacuate.


Disasters are chaotic by nature. CERT teaches the critical component of organization, incident command, and logistics. All are practiced in two simulations on the last day.

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 what our risks are for disasters and emergencies. The instructor conducts a team exercise to discover how it is to work with people you don’t know, and how leaders are naturally chosen. You will learn what it means to be a Disaster Service Worker, general emergency preparedness (CERTs need to be prepared themselves before helping others), the psychological effects of a disaster on individuals and families and how you can take care of yourself as you help others.

CERT backpack

  • Participants are given a green backpack, reflective vest, green helmet, and goggles
  • Participants are supplied with a binder of materials for use throughout the class

CERT backpack

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.

CERT backpack

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.

CERT backpack

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.

CERT backpack

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.

CERT backpack

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.

CERT Curriculum Materials

You can download the CERT training materials to read or review.

Meet CERT Graduates

We've invited a few Community Emergency Response Team members to talk about their experiences with the training, why they took it and what they got out of it. Once you've graduated and become a team member, we have more in store for you. Check out the CERT Graduates page for advanced training and service opportunities. If you are a CERT graduate and would like to share your experience, please contact us!

Michelle Terrell
Mill Valley

Five months after we moved to Mill Valley, the cabin 30 feet from us exploded into fire one night. Thanks to the incredible, diligent work of the Mill Valley Fire Department and Southern Marin Fire Department, our house and the surrounding hillside were saved.

That experience highlighted to me the need to be better prepared for disasters in Marin, including having stores of water and food and a family emergency plan in place. As I became more connected to the community, I recognized how uniquely vulnerable our landscape is to natural disasters and how unprepared many people are, especially families with young children. I took CERT training and found the course engaging and informative and it feels meaningful to be part of a diverse group of individuals throughout Southern Marin who are ready to help their communities in both small- and large-scale disasters.

This year, I volunteered to assist the City of Mill Valley in its efforts to prepare residents, schools, and businesses for disasters as a member of the City Council appointed Emergency Preparedness Commission. Participating in the annual evacuation drill and community gatherings, I observed that many residents felt simply overwhelmed with the task at hand – preventing and preparing for emergencies. I am hopeful that communities in Marin will be better prepared to deal with emergencies should they strike.

Raini Kellog

Raini Kellog
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.

Anne Sands CERT grad

Anne Sands

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!

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