In 95 percent of emergencies, the first responders to the site are victims and bystanders. But untrained citizens can sometimes unintentionally do more harm than good while trying to help.

The Community Emergency Response Team, run by the Citizen Corps, is a citizen training program that aims to change that.

CERT prepares citizens with the training they need to properly confront an emergency situation and take charge before emergency personnel ever arrive.

“CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens may initially be on their own and their actions can make a difference,” says a PDF about CERT from the City of Patterson website. “While people will respond to others in need without the training, one goal of the CERT program is to help them do so effectively and efficiently without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.”

In an emergency, volunteer CERT teams are already on the scene, helping victims and organizing other volunteers. They help to contain disasters until professionally trained responders can come on the scene.

CERT also helps the community by building strong relationships between emergency responders and those they serve, as well as helping with community safety exercises, fire safety education, and more.

A flier put out by Citizens Corps about CERT lists some of the things trainees will be learning. In the 20 hours of training, participants will learn things such as reducing fire hazards at home and in the workplace, extinguishing small fires, conducting light search and rescue, and applying basic medical techniques.

The Community Emergency Response Team originated with the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985, and the Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 emphasized the importance of such a program. It has since spread nationwide.

Training is free, and the program is always looking for more volunteers.

“Who should take CERT training?” the city site says, then answers its own question. “Any adult (living or working in West Stanislaus County) interested in taking an active role in emergency preparedness: parents, students, teachers, community leaders and members of clubs and or civic organizations. No matter where you live, no matter who you are, we all have a role in emergency preparedness. What role will you play?”

More information and an application form are available on the city website at

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