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Community Emergency Response Team

History of CERT

There are Universal (U)” capabilities that everyone in America should have for the four mission areas of “all-hazards” preparedness: prevent, protect, respond, and recover. When disasters occur, the first persons at a scene are usually citizens. In 95% of all emergencies, bystanders or victims themselves are the first to provide emergency assistance or to perform a rescue. Finally there are citizens who volunteer year round to support local emergency responders and community safety efforts.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) concept was developed and implemented by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. They recognized that citizens would very likely be on their own during the early stages of a catastrophic disaster. Accordingly, LAFD decided that some basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills would improve the ability of citizens to survive until responders or other assistance could arrive. The training program that the LAFD initiated proved so beneficial that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) felt that the program concept should be made available to communities nationwide.

In 1994, the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), in cooperation with the LAFD, expanded the CERT materials to make them applicable to all hazards. Then, in 2003, President Bush asked all Americans to volunteer in service of their country. In response, the Citizen Corps program was created to spearhead the effort to harness the power of every individual through education, training, and volunteer service to make communities safer, stronger, and better prepared to respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues and disasters of all kinds. CERT was selected as one of the primary programs offered to the American public to meet this challenge.

About Prince George’s County CERT

In 2004 under the guidance of the Prince George’s County Office of Homeland Security, the first Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was started in the City of Laurel, Maryland. To date, 7,315 adults and 1,061 teens have been trained as CERT members. The 22 basic hours of CERT training is comprised of Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety and Utility Control, Disaster Medical Operations Part I and II, Light Search and Rescue Operations, Disaster Psychology, CERT Organization, and Terrorism and CERT. The course closes with a Course Review and Disaster Simulation Exercise.

In additional to the basic CERT training courses, many volunteers have advanced training in the following areas:


  • National Incident Management Systems
  • Emergency shelter management and operations
  • Emergency evacuation of METRO Subway Trains
  • CPR/AED Training
  • Crowd Control/Roadway Safety and Work Zone Traffic Control
  • Amateur Radio Technician Classes
  • Assistance in Animal Rescue/Operations of Emergency Animal Shelters
  • Assistance with Intake and Inventory of donations during Emergencies/Disasters
  • Large Equipment Operations, and other Recovery related courses

Due to the population of Prince George’s County, at any given time, CERT members can join one or more of our many CERT teams and work with volunteers from all walks of life: retirees, government workers, lawyers, daycare providers, ministers, clerks, nurses, private sector workers and most of all, people who want to help their community be prepared if called upon to assist in times of need. Prince George’s County CERT program is made up of an extremely diverse group of volunteers. CERT is an all-inclusive organization where all are welcome to join and participate as long as they abide by the guidelines which have been established. Prince George’s County CERT does not discriminate against anyone, for any reason.

Prince George’s County CERT outreach activities include:


  • Booth Displays and at First Aid Stations at National Night Out Events, National Preparedness Month activities, Capital Pride Day, and the Prince George’s County Fair.
  • Debris removal during the floods in Lewisdale and the town of Edmonston.
  • Cooling and Warming Center staffing throughout the County during severe heat waves, inclement weather, power outages and storms.
  • Shelter Management and Operations with displaced families.
  • Canvassing neighborhoods to distribute brochures and pertinent information.
  • Participating in Prince George’s County Homeland Security Multi-Year Trainings and Exercises, the State of Maryland Exercises, Red Cross Exercises, and National Capital Region Hospital Exercises.
  • Assisting with the Boys and Girls Scout Day Parades, all Municipal Parades and Community Days.
  • Assisting during the Presidential Inaugurations throughout the National Capital Region; and
  • Deploys during most activations of the Prince George’s County’s Emergency Operations Center to provide support and assistance where needed.

For more information on Prince George's County CERT Program, please email OEMStaff@co.pg.md.us