CERT Training


After I read Neil Strauss’s Emer­gency, I signed up for NERT (Neigh­bor­hood Emer­gency Response Team) while liv­ing in San Fran­cis­co. As soon as I moved to Los Ange­les, I signed up for the LAFD’s CERT (Com­mu­ni­ty Emer­gency Response Team) pro­gram, which is what Neil actu­al­ly wrote about. CERT has much more his­to­ry to it, because it was the first pro­gram of its kind in the world. Oth­er pro­grams, such as NERT, are based on the LAFD’s CERT, and they con­tin­ue to pilot new aspects that get incor­po­rat­ed into FEMA’s frame­work for oth­er programs.

Every Wednes­day from 2 March to 13 April (so for sev­en weeks), I showed up at my local fire­house after work for a les­son. Obvi­ous­ly there was a good amount of over­lap in mate­r­i­al from the NERT lessons, so I breezed through the lessons. How­ev­er, there are some inter­est­ing differences.

First, on an over­all class­room aspect, I liked that NERT had two fire­fight­ers teach­ing every class. One would take the lead on the day’s les­son, but the oth­er would chime in with addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion or a slight­ly dif­fer­ent expla­na­tion, which I felt made it eas­i­er to absorb. Not to take away from the CERT instruc­tor, whom I liked a lot.

Also, I liked that NERT had more hands-on skills demon­stra­tions. When we learned about putting out fires, the fire­fight­ers took us out­side and lit a diesel fire in a met­al pan for us to prac­tice using an extin­guish­er on. (In CERT, it was an option­al after-class les­son with an elec­tron­ic extin­guish­er and a fire sen­sor.) For the les­son on search and res­cue, we went out­side and prac­ticed crib­bing with 2x4s. Our “final exam” involved doing an sim­u­lat­ed search and res­cue (com­plete with vol­un­teer vic­tims with vary­ing injuries) in a dark­ened the­ater. Both CERT and NERT did do hands-on prac­tice of first aid, though.

And final­ly, in terms of fol­low-up, I think CERT offers more. Besides the Lev­el 1 train­ing I received, there are Lev­el 2 and Lev­el 3 train­ings avail­able. They also have CERT assist the LAFD on a more reg­u­lar basis. I feel like NERT had reg­u­lar NERT drills (which do involve the SFFD to some extent), but not much in the way of live action. Both offer advanced options for HAM radio oper­a­tors in case

Either way, no mat­ter where you live, I high­ly rec­om­mend you sign up for CERT, NERT, or what­ev­er your local equiv­a­lent is. As impressed upon by both of the train­ings I have been to, you deter­mine your own lev­el of involve­ment. If you want to go above and beyond at the time when a dis­as­ter strikes and join up with oth­ers to go on city-wide search and res­cue, that is excel­lent! But even if you do not, this train­ing will give you the knowl­edge and tools you need to help your­self and your loved ones in the more-than-like­ly sce­nario that emer­gency ser­vices can­not reach you.