CERT: Origins & History

How it All Got Started

Nationally, the concept for CERT training grew out of the Mexico City earthquake in which untrained volunteers who were willing to undertake rescue and life saving steps in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake saved over 800 people. However, over 100 of these volunteer rescuers lost their lives because they did not have sufficient training to accomplish everything they were attempting.

California authorities, visiting Mexico City after the earthquake, saw the potential of having a core of trained volunteers who could respond (without direction) in natural or man-made disasters and save lives while government and other disaster response agencies mobilized an organized response. As of 1993, over 8,000 individuals and 225 teams had been trained in Southern California. The concept proved a great success in saving lives and preserving property following the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

In 1994 The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) adopted the program and has started promoting the concept with standardized training nation-wide. FEMA still bases the program on volunteers, but by standardizing the training they feel they can insure a consistent level of training and performance nationwide. Standardized training allows volunteer emergency organizations and government officials from any jurisdiction to be familiar with capabilities and limitations and how to effectively communicate missions to C.E.R.T. members/volunteers from other jurisdictions.

President Bush has now included CERT volunteers in the new Citizen Corps and as part of the overall Homeland Security Team.

CERT at the UW

The pilot CERT project that was conducted in 2004 and funded from a FEMA Innovative CERT grant, allowed the University to implement the community-based FEMA CERT program in a large academic institution. A number of changes and modifications were necessary to make this program successful in an employer-based setting. A “best practices” document and training plan were developed to assist other colleges and universities to review when considering establishing their own CERT program for the The pilot CERT project that was conducted in 2004 and funded from a FEMA Innovative CERT grant, allowed the University to implement the community-based FEMA CERT program in a large academic institution. A number of changes and modifications were necessary to make this program successful in an employer-based setting. A “best practices” document and training plan were developed to assist other colleges and universities to review when considering establishing their own CERT program for the PDF documents.

The UW CERT program was funded primarily through a combination of innovative federal grants and private foundation support. However, when these external grant funds expired in March 2008, the university was unable to financially support the program. That, coupled with the loss of UWEM staff to run the program, required the university to officially disband and discontinue the program effective May 29, 2008