Building a CERT Group — Identifying Leaders


A Creative Organizer Creates an Organization That Can Function Well Without Him.”  Eric Hoffer (1802 – 1983)

Getting started is always the hardest part of any task because it represents change.  Overcoming inertia requires fortitude as well as vision.

But the old adage that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step holds true in building a CERT group as well.

Step One: Identify leaders in your neighborhood.

There are people who have the ability to grasp the importance of preparation and group action as well as the vision to make it happen.  If you are out and about, and you use some of the questions we brought up in the last post, you will begin to recognize these people.

Step Two: Find sources of training.

Action Item: Invite these potential leaders to meet in a group to discuss the advantages of having a CERT organization in the neighborhood and to start the investigation for local training.

A good place to start is your local fire department, police department and city hall. Does your city have a local Department of Emergency Management?

If so, and it periodically conducts CERT training classes, they are usually jointly funded with FEMA. If no classes are offered by your city, try the county or adjacent cities and/or visit the CERT website at and click on the State Directory. That will tell you the closest CERT organization. Usually, the training is provided over a period of between 25 & 30 hours.

These classes are usually run in 3-hour segments, one or two days a week or on weekends for people who work or reside in the city or county. Courses are also taught on line, but the real benefit is the hands-on experience with things like fire suppression, cribbing and other aspects of light search & rescue.

Step Three: Get your core group CERT trained. 

Your objective is to get a few people (as many as possible) CERT trained as the foundation of your neighborhood group. Ideally, if you can get 6 or 8 people through the training, you have the core group, Eventually, depending on the population density, you will want to double that number since it is unlikely that all of your CERT-trained people will be home at the time of an emergency.

This raises the question, what size group is best?

That depends on the nature of your area . . . such as the number of homes, whether or not you have apartment dwellings, commercial establishments and the physical location of homes, etc. Ideally, a team of a dozen people can handle 40-60 homes. If you have more than that, say 100 or so residences, your group might encompass 25-30 people, split up into teams or divisions.

(Our neighborhood, for example, has 360 homes.  We’ve divided it into six divisions, with a team of 10-12 for each division.)

More to come… 

We’ll get into this in more detail in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, there are things that should be covered before actually structuring the team/s. Identifying the people who can and will participate is the main objective in the beginning.

Note:  If your interest is in building a CERT team at the workplace, check out this Advisory.


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