CERT - Community Emergency Response Team


CERT Mission

“To do the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.”


What is CERT?

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program educates citizens regarding disaster preparedness relative to hazards that could impact our area and provides basic disaster response skill training. These skills include fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Once trained, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhoods, workplace, or other communities following incidents when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in our community. CERT is one of five organizations that operate under the Citizens Corps, the nationwide grassroots movement that encourages all Americans to help make their communities- and the nation- safer, stronger, and better prepared for all types of hazards and threats through active volunteerism.


Why should I take CERT training?

Your community’s professional responders are well trained and prepared to handle everyday emergencies. However, large-scale emergencies or disasters could easily overwhelm our response capabilities, resulting in possible delays. The primary reason for CERT training is to give people the decision-making, organizational, and practical skills to help them provide immediate assistance to family members, neighbors, and associates until the professional responders can arrive. While many people will respond to those in need without the proper training, the goal of the CERT program is to train and organize our volunteers thoroughly. With this knowledge, they can assist effectively and efficiently – without placing themselves in unnecessary danger.


How will the CERT program benefit my community and me?

CERT–trained citizens have a better understanding of potential threats to their homes, workplace, and community and can take the proper steps to lessen the vulnerability of the hazards. When a disaster overwhelms local response capabilities, CERT members can apply their training to give critical support to their families, neighbors, or associates in the immediate area until help arrives. When help does arrive, CERT members provide valuable information to responders and support their efforts, as directed at the disaster site. CERT members can assist in evacuation, handling donations, preparing food for first responders, answering phones, and many other tasks to assist professional responders. These are just a few examples of how the CERT program can benefit our community. Helping others in times of need is beneficial to all individuals. CERT members can also volunteer with non-emergency projects that benefit the community. For example, CERT members have distributed disaster education materials and provided services at civic events, such as festivals, parades, sporting events, and more.


What kind of training is required to become a CERT volunteer?

You need to complete the “core” CERT training program to become a CERT member. Our training program will consist of approximately 16 hours. Trained emergency responders or trained instructors will teach all sessions. During these sessions, you will learn basic emergency response techniques, including emergency medical/first aid, fire safety, search and rescue techniques, response to emergency incidents, and more.


Who can take CERT training?

Naturals for the training program are participants of neighborhood watch programs, community organizations, communities of faith, school staff, workplace employees, scouting organization leaders, and other group participants that come together regularly for a common purpose. Regardless of your background, you are welcome to participate if you are willing to “get involved” in your community.


I have physical limitations. Can I still participate as a CERT volunteer?

Absolutely! There are many tasks within a CERT program for citizens who want to help. For example, following a disaster, CERT members are needed for documentation, comforting others, logistics, and many more skills needed in times of crisis. Non-disaster-related team activities might include keeping databases, developing a Website, planning activities, logistics, helping with special events, and organizing exercises and activities. 


Are there costs involved with CERT?

There is no charge to register and attend classes.


Who should I contact for more information on the CERT program?

The County of Van Buren CERT program coordinator is Deputy Ray Hochsprung, Office of Domestic Preparedness. 

Phone: (269) 657-7786  

Email: [email protected]


I’m interested in CERT. What do I do next?

  1. Complete the online application for the Volunteer Participation Form 
  2. Download the required form below, fill in all the information, then mail back to the address:

County of Van Buren

Attn. CERT Program Directors

205 S. Kalamazoo Street

Paw Paw, MI 49079-1429

Required Forms