General History

The Community Emergency Response Team concept was developed and implemented by the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) in 1985. The Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987 underscored the area-wide threat of a major disaster in California. Further, it confirmed the need for training civilians to meet their immediate needs. As a result, the LAFD created the Disaster Preparedness Division with the purpose of training citizens and private and government employees.

The training program that LAFD initiated makes good sense and furthers the process of citizens understanding their responsibility in preparing for disaster. It also increases their ability to safely help themselves, their family and their neighbors. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognizes the importance of preparing citizens. The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and the National Fire Academy adopted and expanded the CERT materials believing them applicable to all hazards.

The CERT course will benefit any citizen who takes it. This individual will be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster. Additionally, if a community wants to supplement its response capability after a disaster, civilians can be recruited and trained as neighborhood, business, and government teams that, in essence, will be auxiliary responders. These groups can provide immediate assistance to victims in their area, organize spontaneous volunteers who have not had the training, and collect disaster intelligence that will assist professional responders with prioritization and allocation of resources following a disaster. Since 1993 when this training was made available nationally by FEMA, communities in 46 States and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training.

Pittslyvania County History

September 2003: 1st Class taught at 4 Middle Schools, Monday-Thursday night, weekly for 8 weeks.

November 2003: 1st Graduating Class with 69 members.

April 2004: 2nd Graduating Class with 72 members. This class was taught with deaf participants.

September 2004: 3 CERT members deployed with FEMA during hurricane Ivan.

September 2004: Cert members respond locally to assist with damage assessments during the tornado incident.

November 2004: Pittysylvania County CERT training for the deaf is mentioned in New Zealand conference.

April 2005: CERT members take Amateur Radio (HAM) training and 18 are granted an FCC license.

August 2005: Danville and Pittsylvania County CERT members work together to assist local charity, God's Pit Crew, in Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts.

February 2006: CERT members respond locally to assist with damage assessments during a tornado incident.

May 2006: CERT members respond locally to assist with damage assessments due to damage caused from Straight Line Winds.

October 2006: 15 CERT members receive Instructor Status.

April 2007: Jim Davis, emergency coordinator for Pittsylvania County, VA, earned the Alan Clive Spirit and Service Award at the 2007 National Hurricane Conference this month in New Orleans. Davis' work includes emergency preparedness for the deaf communities in Pittsylvania County and the city of Danville. Davis formed a partnership between the two localities and the Danville Community College to provide weather alert radios with visual alarms and training to local deaf residents. The partnership also provided Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training to the deaf community with sign language interpreters. Instead of holding separate CERT training for deaf residents, Davis taught the basic disaster response class to both hearing and deaf residents, allowing them to work together during the final exercise as they would in a real world event. Davis secured funding for the radios and interpreters from the Danville Lions Club, and a Virginia Corps grant helped fund the interpreters.

May 2007: Pittsylvania County CERT receives international recognition in Jane's Homeland Security and Resilience Monitor, Whitehall, London, United Kingdom.