The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is a group of trained volunteers that serve as auxiliaries to community emergency services and first responders. Although not as heavily trained, CERT workers have undergone basic training in medical operations, search and rescue, disaster preparation, and fire suppression.

The CERT system was a response to the rise in mass emergencies (such as typhoons and earthquakes) that have proved too much to handle for existing emergency services. The purpose of CERT is to prepare people for emergencies rather than rescue them, but in doing so, they reduce the need for actual emergency response.

CERT has devised an effective evacuation plan for community disasters, requiring cooperation from community members and authorities. It consists of five stages:

Self-rescue: The first step is for each person to leave the scene of the disaster, grabbing only a few necessities from their "grab and go" bag. This is an emergency bag attached to every person's bed, containing flashlights, clothes, and basic survival items. They will head to a predetermined evacuation site, or a meeting place agreed upon by the family. The point is for each person to rescue himself, so it is not advised to check on other people, each is assumed to have been informed of the CERT plan.

Family rescue

Next, families have to find and check on each other. Only experts should turn off the gas, except when it has leaked; in that case the electricity should be turned off as well. Families are advised to keep a 72-hour emergency kit with enough supplies for all members. Pre-packed kits are available at ww.DisasterStuff.com. Each kit should contain:

* One gallon of water per person per day
* Food supplies (non-perishable, e.g. ration bars and MREs)
* Basic cooking and repair tools
* First aid supplies
* Radio, flashlight, and spare batteries
* Dust mask; if not available, a shirt or piece of cloth for filter
* Disinfectants and toiletries
* Sheeting, rope, and tape (for shelter)
* IDs and important family documents
* Changes of clothes
* Flare signals
* Pen and paper

Neighborhood rescue

This is where the CERT team is most active. Everyone in the affected area is brought to the CERT post. The team administers first aid, registers the evacuees, and check the buildings for more hazards and remaining victims. If no one on the team is trained, they may have to train themselves on the spot.

Coordination with authorities

The team generates a report on the disaster, describing the extent of damage, number of injuries and casualties, and exact location. Afterwards, they do actual search and rescue in cooperation with the local fire and police departments. Injured people are brought to the first aid station or the nearest hospital.

Local sheltering

The evacuees are then reunited with their families and, if necessary, stay in the post until their homes are restored. If there are too many people, they may have to be relocated to a larger center so that the CERT can better manage resources. The Red Cross, Red Crescent, and other groups are usually present to help out.