DIY Setting Up
a Local CERT

How to Set Up a CERT in Your Community

If you are ready to add a CERT to your community to enable residents to act confidently in response to an unexpected disaster, then follow the steps below to plan and launch with success.

Identify Program Goals

Start by identifying the program goals of your CERT. Include quantifiable elements such as:

The number of initial trainers.

The number of initial volunteers.

Launch date.

Conduct a Hazard Analysis

Conduct a hazard analysis to determine the types of risks your community is most likely to face. For example, your area may be highly susceptible to floods, wildfires, snowstorms, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Use the results of your hazard analysis to prioritize and tailor volunteer CERT team training to ensure the greatest effectiveness.

Identify Needed Resources

Determine necessary program funding and any municipal physical resources. Factors that will impact costs and resources will include volunteer recruitment goals, number of trainers, marketing, and promotions, and ongoing recruitment and training. Additionally, such CERT team member supplies that you may need to budget for include:

If necessary, consider applying for grant funding to supplement what your administration can offer from its budget.

Engage Elected Officials

Engage your community’s appointed and elected officials to gain support for establishing a CERT in your community.

Register Your CERT

Register your CERT on FEMA’s National Citizen Responder Programs Registration site at The program helps registered CERT program managers operate their CERT programs and citizen corps councils properly. It offers such resources as:

To register your CERT with FEMA, create an account at

Understand Your Administration’s Liability

Talk to your legal counsel to understand the liability that individual volunteers and your administration may face relative to dispatching CERT members into the field during a disaster. Your legal counsel can help you create any waivers or legal documents that may be necessary to protect all those involved.

Engage Local Emergency Responders

Identify emergency response leaders in your community to complete the CERT train-the-trainer certification.

Promote and Recruit

Promote your CERT program using multiple communication channels and recruit potential participants. Focus your recruitment efforts on community groups, business and industry workers, and staff within your local government administration.

Create a Training Schedule

Once you have adequately certified your initial crew of CERT trainers, build a regular, recurring schedule to hold CERT training. Focus initially on holding an annual training session, and then consider adding subsequent classes throughout the year based on the size of your community and your residents’ interest level. Be sure to invite past participants to future sessions as part of their refresher training.

Make the Training Experience Accessible and Inclusive

Prepare your CERT training room, materials, and staff to ensure the highest possible content accessibility and program inclusivity. FEMA recommends the following considerations to enable the most significant engagement and participation opportunities:

Ensure your training facility is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This requirement means that individuals living with a physical disability will be able to access the room, if necessary, via a ramp or elevator.

Set up your classroom to be conducive to participation and engagement. For example, consider setting up seating in a “U”-shaped configuration that allows participants who are deaf or hard of hearing to see the instructor easily.

If necessary, make a microphone available in the room so that participants who are hard of hearing can hear instructors and other participants more clearly, and be prepared to offer the use of an assistive listening system.

Keep room lights on during instructional videos to increase visibility.

If necessary, arrange for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or the use of Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) providers; send them a list of terms with which they might not be familiar in advance.

Secure interpreters or translators to participate in small-group breakout sessions, as necessary.

Send participants training manuals in advance to enable advanced learning and personal preparation.

Leverage FEMA’s Training Schedule

FEMA’s 24 hours of CERT training for community groups can be delivered in many ways. Some like to do it in two-and-a-half-hour sessions, one evening a week over ten weeks. Others prefer three consecutive 8-hour days.

The training consists of the following:

Hold Regular Drills

Thorough training will give your residents vital knowledge for how to act in an emergency to enable them to work quickly and with confidence, enable them to practice what they have learned.

Prepare for Potential Roadblocks

Anticipate challenges you may face, such as recruitment, marketing effectiveness with a minimal budget, or long-term program enthusiasm. Incorporate into your planning ways to mitigate your identified challenges to set your program up for long-term success.

Recognize Individual and Team Progress

Recognize CERT members for completing their training and provide them with identification cards, vests, helmets, or other applicable recognition materials.

Supplement with a Workplace CERT

Encourage employees in your administration to participate in a CERT created exclusively for your administrative staff members. Workplace CERT programs support and enhance community programs and showcase your administration’s dedication to civic action and emergency preparedness. Workplace CERTS also arm local government employees, and community members will look to when a disaster strikes with the skills and confidence to step in during an emergency, no matter what it is or where they are when it occurs. Follow the steps below to build a workplace CERT (note that many of the steps below apply to the building of your primary CERT as well):

Keep CERT Members Engaged

A successful CERT program requires ongoing fresher training and team engagement. Encourage CERT members to be prominent in the community by sponsoring events such as emergency response drills, and neighborhood clean-up events, and creating educational content that you can share on your local government website.

Reevaluate Goals Annually

As the needs of your community evolve and you begin to obtain feedback from CERT leaders, trainers, and participants, be willing to pivot and adjust your goals and strategies to optimize the effectiveness of your program.


Remember that a vital component of an impactful community emergency response program involves an effective emergency warning system. If you haven’t already invested in such a system, click below to take a five-minute self-guided tour of our mass notification solution CivicReady® built for local government.