Community Emergency Response Team

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What is CERT?


  • A Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, is a neighborhood-based team of volunteers who receive special training from professional responders to recognize, respond to, and recover from major emergencies or disasters.
  • CERT is activated by the County to support major events requiring public safety and emergency management coordination, like the Marine Corps Marathon and July 4 celebrations.


CERT Information Request 

In Arlington County

Emergencies like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks showed how public safety resources could become overwhelmed in a major emergency. Trained, local volunteers are uniquely positioned to support County response efforts because they know the community so well and because of their specialized skills that allow them to respond to all hazards - from hazardous weather to acts of violence. Thus emerged the concept of the first all-disaster, neighborhood-based CERTs in northern Virginia.

 Become a CERT volunteer - sign up for training updates! 

Volunteer Training

Anyone who spends time in Arlington may apply to attend free CERT Basic Training.  Trainees become full CERT members after completing all class sessions and a drill/practical exam.

The next English-language class begins on April 12, 2023. Basic Trainings are held in biannually.

 Request information for the free Spring 2023 volunteer training. 

Basic Training consists of eight, 2.5-hour classes held over six weeks. Classes are taught by local emergency response/management personnel and include lecture, discussion and hands-on learning. Download an informational flier(PDF, 2MB).

Areas of training include:

  • Disaster Threats in Arlington County
  • Personal and Family Preparation and Safety
  • Recognizing and Treating Life-Threatening and Non-Life-Threatening Emergencies
  • Triage and Treatment Area Management
  • Incident Command System
  • Disaster Psychology
  • Fire Safety Techniques
  • Light Search and Rescue Operations

The final session includes a practical exam comprised of disaster simulations to give trainees the ability to apply their newly acquired skills in a semi-realistic environment. Continuing and advanced education is available for interested graduates.

CERTs can be created within already organized groups, including:

  • Neighborhood Groups
  • Civic Associations
  • Homeowner/Condo/Townhouse Associations
  • Business Groups
  • Neighborhood Watch organizations
  • Scouts
  • Faith-Based Groups

Arlington has trained several neighborhood teams and will continue building on that base. As new people are trained, they are referred to existing teams. As existing teams grow, they may choose to divide into smaller neighborhoods. 

Sign Up to Volunteer!

Free Arlington CERT Basic Training (CBT)

Training is required for all new CERT volunteers. Basic Training (new volunteer training) is offered twice a year.

2023 Class Schedule

Start Date


End Date

CERT Refresher Course (Two sessions) Feb 8   Feb 22    
CERT Basic Training - Spring Apr 12   May 13   View schedule
CERT Basic Training - Fall Sep 6    Sep 30    

Download flier(PDF, 2MB)

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Basic Training is delivered in English and Spanish. Classes are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays for a total of eight sessions. Apply now.

The course is FREE and open to anyone on lives, works, attends school or a place of worship or volunteers extensively in Arlington County. 

Anyone* who is 14+ and lives, works, or spends time in Arlington is welcome to attend Basic Training. Minors must have a parent present during trainings to be able to attend. Ages 14-17 year-old participants are required to attend the sessions with a parent/tutor. 

Sign up now to register for an Arlington CERT course.

Thank you for your interest in CERT!

Ongoing Volunteer Commitment

Volunteer Expectations

CERT volunteers are an invaluable part of the County's emergency management community. Thank you in advance for your interest in volunteering! 

Trainees become CERT volunteers after they graduate from Basic Training (held twice a year). Ongoing volunteer expectations are outlined below.


CERT members will be asked to acquire supplies to be best prepared to volunteer. A supply list will be shard during the first Basic Training class and volunteer trainees should not purchase items before then. 

Questions? Email us at

Volunteer Skills and Abilities

Volunteers are expected to know the geography of their neighborhood and to be able to quickly transport themselves to emergencies when activated by authorized County agencies. CERT members support first responders in emergencies when activated and are expected to:

  • Assume a leadership role.
  • Assess situations and properly advise emergency responders when they arrive.
  • Recognize the potential hazards associated with a particular type of event and take appropriate action.
  • Take steps to get to safety and/or help others to do so in an organized fashion.
  • Help identify staging areas for operations and triage.
  • Help identify, organize and utilize local resources.
  • Assist others with the emotional distress associated with major emergencies and disaster conditions.
  • Administer first aid and/or triage casualties.
  • Perform needs assessments, document and communicate needs to local authorities.
  • Support effective and efficient allocation of emergency resources.


CERT members are activated by authorized Arlington County agencies.

Ongoing Participation and Responsibilities

CERT Basic Training graduates are expected to:

  • Help prepare individuals and organizations in the neighborhood to take care of themselves in the event of a disaster by providing or facilitating education about emergency preparedness
  • Be willing to help neighbors and the community in the event of a disaster, after assuring self and family safety
  • Seek out and take advantage of opportunities to enhance emergency preparedness and disaster skills
  • Be willing to participate in community events, drills and training others
  • Participate in periodic team meetings to organize and maintain activities
  • Review and adhere to CERT’s operating guidelines 

CERT in Other Communities

CERT in Other Communities

Below is a selection of helpful CERT websites.


The Community Emergency Response Team concept was developed and implemented by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985. The department recognized that citizens would very likely be on their own during the early stages of a catastrophic disaster and that, with some basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills, they would be better able to survive and help others until responders or other assistance could arrive.

More recently, east coast cities have recognized the success of the CERT concept and have trained teams to meet local challenges. Many coastal communities, particularly in hurricane-prone areas, have already trained thousands of people. CERT training has proven so beneficial that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has recommended that CERT training be done nationwide. The Emergency Management Institute, in cooperation with the Los Angeles Fire Department, has expanded CERT materials and made them applicable for all contemporary hazards.