WRITTEN BY: Zach Champ
Connect with me on LinkedIn & Instagram! 

(Originally Published on Hoodie Goodies in 2018)

(Republished for INSPIRE OCT 2022) 


Have you asked yourself this question lately?

Do you have a plan in place for potential disasters? 

Not everyone does, but by taking the time to think of and consider potential crisis that could occur in your neighborhood you could potentially be making a life-saving decision.

At Hoodie Goodies, we like to be proactive in promoting a culture of safety and preparedness. We believe that by focusing on ensuring the safety of our community, we are being part of the greater good!

As a result, there was one night when we were all gathered at our Washington D.C apartment location and were discussing such matters.

We were all in a deep debate about what we would do if a natural disaster like a hurricane happened and the power went out in the city. Each of us had our own individual plan of action and ideas of how we would respond.

Naturally, we debated whose plan was the most effective and likely to result in survival.

It was at this point that one of our team leaders Steve said, “Hey I forgot to show you all this…”and proceeded to stand up and grab something out of the utility closet. 

What he ended up grabbing was a green backpack with a yellow logo on it that read COMMUNITY EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM- WASHINGTON D.C.

What is this?” we all asked as he placed the backpack on the floor and unzipped it.

Inside we were surprised to find a variety of survival items and tools. The evergreen backpack included a blanket, utility tool, reflective safety vest, zip ties, electrical tape, and gloves among other items.

Where did you get this Steve?” we all asked.

Steve responded that he had found the backpack when we moved into the apartment. Interested in this backpack and the yellow letters of the logo, we consulted Google and were surprised by what we found and learned. 


The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) also known as the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) or Neighborhood Emergency Team (NET) is part of the Citizen Corps, a program that is funded by the Department of Homeland Security. 

The Citizen Corps was enacted after 9/11 and is designed to provide training for Americans in their communities so if needed, they can be part of recovery after a serious natural disaster, man-made disaster, or terrorist attack.

Examples of other Citizen Corps programs include Fire Corps, Neighborhood Watch programs, Medical Reserve Corps, and Volunteers in Police Program. 

So, what exactly does the CERT do? Well, the CERT’s main task is to educate volunteers about disaster preparedness. CERT also provides training in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, search and rescue, organization and command, disaster medical operations, and more!

Through participating in the training provided by CERT you can become a FEMA Citizen Responder and help make a difference in your community in times of need!

These are valuable skills that can benefit any individual or family, whether you plan on participating in recovery operations or not.

Having this general knowledge can even save your life! 

A typical Cert Teams generally consists of the following positions and roles:

        • CERT Leader
        • Safety Officer
        • Fire Suppression Team (3 People)
        • Search and Rescue Team (3 People)
        • Medical Triage Team (3 People)
        • Medical Treatment Team (3 People)


The idea for the CERT program originally started with the Los Angeles City Fire Department in 1985. At this time a group of Los Angeles Fire Fighters had the privilege of visiting Japan to learn about how the local communities in that country respond to fires and natural disasters.

During their visit, there was a significant earthquake that affected the region causing death and destruction. These visiting firefighters were able to witness first aid how community members in Japan effectively organized together and helped local officials with disaster response.

The Los Angeles Fire Fighters returned from Japan inspired by what they saw and shortly thereafter began implementing a new program designed to train local citizens in fire suppression and disaster response. It wasn’t long before the program would be put to its first real test.

In 1987 on October 1st the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California experienced a magnitude 5.9 earthquake. This earthquake while modest in sized was still able to cause significant property damage totaling close to $250 million dollars. Not only that, but the earthquake resulted in close to 200 injuries and 3 deaths. 

The initial group of trainees that the LAFD had instructed proved invaluable to clean up and recovery efforts during this event. The program the Los Angeles Fire Fighters had copied and created here at home in the United States had demonstrated itself to be a success! It was from this initial pilot program that the concept for CERT would later be expanded upon.

The first official federally funded CERT program began in 1993. Nowadays there are CERT programs in all 50 states of the United States of America as well as all tribal communities and U.S Territories like Puerto Rico & the Virgin Islands.

The CERT program has helped prepare America’s neighborhoods and communities for disaster and since its inception has been able to train close to 600,000 people in fire suppression, first aid, and disaster preparedness!

Not only that but the CERT program has even grown to include training in both English and Spanish, allowing more Americas access to this important life-saving knowledge!

Learn more about the history of the CERT program by visiting the Los Angeles Fire Department page here https://www.lafd.org/join/volunteer/cert 


“Doing the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number of People”

The Community Emergency Response Team is not just for disasters in cities and neighborhoods, but also the workplace and campus!

CERT provides specially tailored instruction for students and employees so they know how to best respond in their environments during a disaster or emergency situation.

Citizens with CERT training can provide essential auxiliary support for disaster recovery operations and are a key resource for such operations. A neighborhood with an active CERT program can make all the difference in a severe emergency scenario!

CERT members will often serve as first responders to emergencies. With the ever-increasing risk of climate change and political instability, we can never be too careful or cautious!

Let’s say you live in Annapolis or Virginia Beach, one of our beautiful waterfront communities here in the DMV… 

It’s late summer. The past week the weather has been amazing! But it’s hurricane season and this time the weather forecasters are predicting a severe storm. Already the wind has picked up and the sky has darkened. You are unable to evacuate your home because you have an elderly grandmother who is wheelchair-bound. 

The storm worsens over the next few hours, and as the ferocious winds rip up parts of your house’s roof get ripped off. You are now terrified and scared, but you try to remain brave and calm for your grandmother who is visibly nervous and distraught. You both make it through the night, but it hasn’t stopped raining in hours and the downstairs floor level has flooded several inches. Luckily you were able to carry your grandmother to the 2nd-floor bathroom where you both try to find safety. At this point, you have contacted authorities for help and evacuation. 

You wait for help to arrive and finally hear the sound of a motorboat approaching. You make it outside excited to finally get out of this stressful and terrifying situation.  Who has come to the rescue? Why you are surprised to see it’s your next-door neighbor John alongside local and regional fire and EMT! John reaches his hand out to help you into his boat and you notice the CERT shirt he is wearing.

It’s CERT here to save the day!


You too can be like the fictional next-door neighbor John and help save the day with CERT!

CERT provides comprehensive training and certification in the following fields of knowledge:

        • Disaster Preparedness
        • Fire Suppression
        • Medical Operations Part I
        • Medical Operations Part 2
        • Light Search & Rescue
        • Psychology & Team Organization
        • Course Review and Disaster Simulation 

CERT training is provided in Spanish which allows more American citizens an opportunity to help save the day!

Just check out this informational video provided by FEMA to learn more about the CERT program and getting involved!  

For more information on the CERT program visit the official website at https://www.ready.gov/community-emergency-response-team 

For information on getting involved with the CERT program here in the District of Colombia visit their website at https://serve.dc.gov/service/community-emergency-response-team-cert-training