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Predisaster integration of Community Emergency Response Teams

Jessica Jensen, PhD, John Carr, MS


Objective: The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program has been increasingly used within local emergency management systems since the United States’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) adopted and began promoting the program in 1993. The objective of this study was to explore the integration of CERT programs within local emergency management systems predisaster.

Design: Qualitative, semi-structured telephone interviews were used to collect data from a purposive sample of CERT program coordinators.

Setting: Telephone interviews were conducted with CERT program coordinators in FEMA Region VII (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska).

Subjects, participants: Twenty-five local county emergency managers participated in this study.

Results: This study found that the integration of CERTs varied significantly. The extent to which most teams were integrated allowed them to be placed along an integration continuum and classified as one of three types including Least Integrated, Somewhat Integrated, and Highly Integrated. Other team characteristics seemed to covary with the team integration. A phenomenon of team Piggy Backing—where the integration of the team was no longer relevant—was also found.

Conclusions: This study concludes by making a key recommendation that could benefit any CERT—add a module to the CERT training curriculum designed to integrate the individuals associated with the CERT program within their local emergency management system.


disaster volunteers, spontaneous volunteerism, voluntary sector, preparedness, disaster response, community response, citizen preparedness programs, Community Emergency Response Team

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