Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

Port Richmond CERT is an active neighborhood and community based volunteer team committed to:
  • Inform and educate their neighbors about disaster preparedness
  • Assist public safety agencies and local community boards with public events
  • Respond to local disasters in accordance with CERT protocols and support emergency personnel upon their arrival and request
  • Assist agencies in managing spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site
  • Participate in community outreach opportunities

Joining the Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team is an excellent opportunity for an individual who wants to volunteer time to their community and be part of a team. Members undergo initial CERT training (10 three hour sessions) and continued awareness-level training throughout the calendar year. Certain instruction modules are worth college credits.

Initial CERT training includes: Incident Command System, Lite Urban Search and Rescue, Fire Suppression, Triage, Traffic Control, Radio Communications and Urban Emergency Preparedness. Graduates can choose which specialty squad they wish to participate in. Members of the team conduct periodic emergency response drills and training with our local emergency preparedness first responders. The team also plans several community outreach projects during the year. Since its beginnings, the team has logged over 75,000 hours of community service.

History of CERT

The CERT program started in Los Angeles, California before making its journey across the United States and abroad. Here is a brief history of the program.

1985: The idea to train volunteers from the community to assist emergency service personnel during large natural disasters began in February of 1985; when a group of Los Angeles City officials went to Japan to study its extensive earthquake preparedness plans. The group encountered an extremely homogenous society that had taken extensive steps to train entire neighborhoods in one aspect of alleviating the potential devastation that would follow a major earthquake. These single-function neighborhood teams were each trained in one of the following specialties: fire suppression, light search and rescue operations, first aid, or evacuation.

In September of 1985, a Los Angeles City investigation team was sent to Mexico City following an earthquake there that registered a magnitude 8.1 on the Richter scale and killed more than 10,000 people and injured more than 30,000. Mexico City had no training program for citizens prior to the disaster. However, large groups of volunteers organized themselves and performed light search and rescue operations. Volunteers are credited with more than 800 successful rescues; unfortunately, more than 100 of these untrained volunteers died during the 15-day rescue operation.

The lessons learned in Mexico City strongly indicated that a plan to train volunteers to help themselves and others, and become an adjunct to government response, was needed as an essential part of overall preparedness, survival, and recovery.

1986: The City of Los Angeles Fire Department developed a pilot program to train a group of leaders in a neighborhood watch organization. A concept developed involving multi-functional volunteer response teams with the ability to perform basic fire suppression, light search and rescue, and first aid. This first team of 30 people completed training in early 1986 and proved that the concept was viable through various drills, demonstrations, and exercises.

1987: On October 1, 1987, the Whittier Narrows earthquake vividly underscored the threat of an area-wide major disaster, and demonstrated the need to expedite the training of civilians to prepare for earthquakes and other emergencies.

Following the Whittier Narrows earthquake, the City of Los Angeles took an aggressive role in protecting the citizens of Los Angeles by creating the Disaster Preparedness Unit within the Los Angeles City Fire Department. Their objectives included:

  • Educate and train the public and government sectors in disaster preparedness
  • Research, evaluate, and disseminate disaster information
  • Develop, train, and maintain a network of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs).
CERT team training

1993: The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) decided to make the concept and program available to communities nationwide. The Emergency Management Institute (EMI), in cooperation with the LAFD, expanded the CERT materials to make them applicable to all hazards.

2002: In January 2002, CERT became part of the Citizen Corps, a unifying structure to link a variety of related volunteer activities to expand a community's resources for crime prevention and emergency response.

2003: As of July 2003, 48 states and six foreign countries are using the CERT training.

The City of New York Office of Emergency Management (OEM) developed and implemented a pilot program in “an effort to address New York City-specific conditions such as high-rise building and subway safety, an OEM-led team, drawing support from the American Red Cross, New York City Fire Department (FDNY), New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), revised the existing FEMA-produced CERT curriculum and added an urban module to reflect New York City protocols in November 2003.” (NYC OEM, http://www.nyc.gov/oem, 2004)

The program started on November 1, 2003 with the first five teams beginning their 33 hour training course. These groups completed the 33 hour program in Mid-December and graduated in early January 2004. Additionally, another ten teams will begin their training in early 2004 and by summer 2004, there were over 15 NYC CERT teams.

The CERT Pledge: I pledge to respond to my community’s needs before, during, and after a disaster; and to uphold the rules and principles of the NYC CERT program and the New York City Emergency Management Department as an active CERT member. I will behave with professionalism and integrity as a volunteer providing disaster preparedness information or supporting the first responder community.

Portions courtesy of Linda Underwood and the rest of the CERT Los Angeles Team (©1999-2003)

Learn More - Be Prepared

CERT volunteers are trained in many areas in order to be prepared.

Search And Rescue (SAR)

The search and rescue function is really two separate activities:

  • Search. To look through (a place, an area, etc.) carefully in order to find something missing or lost.
  • Rescue. To free or deliver from confinement.

As a volunteer worker, you will confine your efforts to light search and rescue; that is, the relatively uncomplicated extrication of victims from situations that pose minimal risk to the rescuer.

Read More

Light Search and Rescue


CERT disaster medical operations personnel are trained to provide treatment for life-threatening conditions, airway obstruction, bleeding, and shock treatment for other less urgent conditions. They are also trained to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of victims through principles of triage. Given the overwhelming nature of disasters, the CERT members' training in medical operations can play a critical role in disaster response.

Read More

Medical: Simple Triage and Rapid Treatment

Disaster Preparedness

Disaster can strike quickly and without warning. It can force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home.

Families can, and do, cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team. Follow the steps listed here to create your family's disaster plan and put together a Go Bag. Knowing what to do is your best protection and your responsibility.

Read More

Disaster Preparedness

Severe Weather

Severe weather can happen anytime. In May 2013, tornadoes devastated part of central Oklahoma. This outbreak included the deadliest tornado of the year on May 19 in Moore, Oklahoma. At least 70 tornadoes spanned seven Midwestern states in November 2013.

Read More

Severe Weather

Home Safety / Hazards

There are safety hazards to watch out for around your home.

Your family and home come first, so safety at home is important. Unfortunately, there are a number of hazards hiding in plain sight throughout your home.

Here are some safety tips to common hazards in the home, along with action you can take to avoid injury and keep your family out of harms way.

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Safety at Home / Avoid the Hazards

Emergency Pet Care

Red Cross disaster shelters cannot accept pets because of state health and safety regulations and other considerations.

Service animals who assist people with disabilities are the only animals allowed in Red Cross shelters.

It may be difficult, if not impossible, to find shelter for your animals in the midst of a disaster, so plan ahead. Do not wait until disaster strikes to do your research.

Read More

Animal Disaster Preparedness


CERT Frequently Asked Questions

Contact Us

We would love to hear from you.

Write to us

Staten Island, NY

To make a donation of supplies and or services, please email us at donations@sicert.org or fill out the form on the left.

Contact Information

You can email us directly: info@sicert.org

You can call John Tidona at 718-448-7160

Attend a meeting, see what CERT is all about!

Events Calendar