In February, 1985 a group of Los Angeles City officials went to Japan to study its extensive earthquake preparedness plans. They found that Japan had taken extreme 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 fire

suppression, light search and rescue operations, first aid or evacuation. Also, in September of 1985, a Los Angeles City investigation team was sent to Mexico City following the magnitude 8.1 quake that killed more than 10,000 people and

injured more than 30,000. Mexico City had no training program for citizens prior to the disaster. Untrained volunteers rescued many people but through lack of training, many of the volunteers “injured” themselves, and some even “died”.

In 1986 the Los Angeles Fire Department developed a pilot program to train citizens in various basic disaster preparedness skills. In 1987 the Whittier Narrows earthquake spurred the City of Los Angeles to take an aggressive role in protecting its citizens. The Los Angeles Fire Department created the Disaster Preparedness division. Born out of these major disasters, the concept of widespread local volunteer emergency responders was implemented and by 1993 the Federal Emergency Management Agency had made the program available nationwide. In January 2002, CERT became part of the Citizen Corps. By 2004, 50 states, three territories and six foreign countries were using the CERT training program. In July 2010, the CanadianInternet Registration Authority recommended to the Government of Canada to enhance its ability to respond to emergencies by developing a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).


The CERT program educates people to prepare for hazards in their area by training them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. With the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an

event when professional responders are not immediately available to help.

When events happen, whether caused by nature or man-made, learned lifesaving skills should be an essential part of the civilian sector for not only taking care of themselves, their families and neighbors, but to support first responders.

The recognition of CERT in the public and professional community is growing at a fast pace. Blending together with trained professionals, a dedicated CERT member can opt to go to higher skill levels of training after the 20 hour basic

training program. Together, the professional and a well-trained CERT member can make a difference when a disaster occurs. So, CERT has only one place to go and that’s reaching up and out to their community.

Janet Damico

Erie County CERT Coordinator


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