Des Moines County, Iowa (CERT)
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What is CERT?

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event 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 their community.

About CERT


Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services. Factors as number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect at a moment's notice through 911. People will have to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate life saving and life sustaining needs.

One also expects that under these kinds of conditions, family members, fellow employees, and neighbors will spontaneously try to help each other. This was the case following the Mexico City earthquake where untrained, spontaneous volunteers saved 800 people. However, 100 people lost their lives while attempting to save others. This is a high price to pay and is preventable through training.

If we can predict that emergency services will not meet immediate needs following a major disaster, especially if there is no warning as in an earthquake, and people will spontaneously volunteer, what can government do to prepare citizens for this eventuality?

First, present citizens the facts about what to expect following a major disaster in terms of immediate services. Second, give the message about their responsibility for mitigation and preparedness. Third, train them in needed life saving skills with emphasis on decision making skills, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. Fourth, organize teams so that they are an extension of first responder services offering immediate help to victims until professional services arrive.


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 28 States and Puerto Rico have conducted CERT training.


We recommend a number of steps to start a CERT:

  • Identify the program goals that CERT will meet and the resources available to conduct the program in your area.
  • Gain approval from appointed and elected officials to use CERT as a means to prepare citizens to care for themselves during a disaster when services may not be adequate. This is an excellent opportunity for the government to be proactive in working with its constituency.
  • Identify and recruit potential participants. Naturals for CERT are community groups, business and industry workers, and local government workers.
  • Train CERT instructor cadre
  • Conduct CERT sessions.
  • Conduct refresher training and exercises with CERTs.


The CERT course is delivered in the community by a team of first responders who have the requisite knowledge and skills to instruct the sessions. It is suggested that the instructors complete a CERT Train-the-Trainer (TTT) conducted by their State Training Office for Emergency Management or the Emergency Management Institute in order to learn the training techniques that are used successfully by the LAFD.

The CERT training for community groups is usually delivered in 2 1/2 hour sessions, one evening a week over a 7 week period. The training consists of the following:

  • Session I, DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Addresses hazards to which people are vulnerable in their community. Materials cover actions that participants and their families take before, during, and after a disaster. As the session progresses, the instructor begins to explore an expanded response role for civilians in that they should begin to consider themselves disaster workers. Since they will want to help their family members and neighbors, this training can help them operate in a safe and appropriate manner. The CERT concept and organization are discussed as well as applicable laws governing volunteers in that jurisdiction.

  • Session II, DISASTER FIRE SUPPRESSION: Briefly covers fire chemistry, hazardous materials, fire hazards, and fire suppression strategies. However, the thrust of this session is the safe use of fire extinguishers, sizing up the situation, controlling utilities, and extinguishing a small fire.

  • Session III, DISASTER MEDICAL OPERATIONS PART I: Participants practice diagnosing and treating airway obstruction, bleeding, and shock by using simple triage and rapid treatment techniques.

  • Session IV, DISASTER MEDICAL OPERATIONS, PART II: Covers evaluating patients by doing a head to toe assessment, establishing a medical treatment area, performing basic first aid, and practicing in a safe and sanitary manner.

  • Session V, LIGHT SEARCH AND RESCUE OPERATIONS: Participants learn about search and rescue planning, size-up, search techniques, rescue techniques, and most important, rescuer safety.

  • Session VI, DISASTER PSYCHOLOGY AND TEAM ORGANIZATION: Covers signs and symptoms that might be experienced by the disaster victim and worker. It addresses CERT organization and management principles and the need for documentation.

  • Session VII, COURSE REVIEW AND DISASTER SIMULATION: Participants review their answers from a take home examination. Finally, they practice the skills that they have learned during the previous six sessions in disaster activity.

During each session participants are required to bring safety equipment (gloves, goggles, mask) and disaster supplies (bandages, flashlight, dressings) which will be used during the session. By doing this for each session, participants are building a disaster response kit of items that they will need during a disaster.

Maintaining Involvement

When participants have completed this training, it is important to keep them involved and practiced in their skills. Trainers should offer periodic refresher sessions to reinforce the basic training. CERT teams can sponsor events such as drills, picnics, neighborhood clean up, and disaster education fairs which will keep them involved and trained.

CERT members should receive recognition for completing their training. Communities may issue ID cards, vests, and helmets to graduates.

First responders need to be educated about the CERT and their value to the community. Using CERT as a component of the response system when there are exercises for potential disasters can reinforce this idea.


FEMA supports CERT by conducting or sponsoring TTT's for members of the fire, medical, and emergency management community. The objectives of the TTT are to prepare attendees to promote this training in their community, conduct TTT's at their location, conduct training sessions for neighborhood, business and industry, and government groups, and organize teams with which first responders can interface following a major disaster.


CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference. Through training, citizens can manage utilities and put out small fires; treat the three killers by opening airways, controlling bleeding, and treating for shock; provide basic medical aid; search for and rescue victims safely; and organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective.

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  • Great River Mental Health Care West Burlington Ia
  • SKYWARN/CERT/Ham Weather Operations Center (WOC)
Name of Program:Des Moines County Community Emergency Response Team
Geographic Area:Des Moines County
Point of Contact:Gina Hardin
Coordinator of Emergency Management
Des Moines County Emergency Management
512 N. Main Street, Suite 1
Burlington, IA 52601
Phone Number:(319) 753-8206 or (319) 753-8731
Website address:Des Moines County, IA - Official Website
Social Media Site:
to see what our volunteers accomplishedDownLoad
Brief Description:The Des Moines County CERTeam meets on a monthly basis for training, planning, and exercises. They assist with public education at community events, special educational programs, participate in local community exercises, and provide traffic control for community parades and events. They also, when requested, respond to emergencies in the community.
On average, this CERT Program conducts the CERT Basic Training Course 1 time a year.
Number of CERT classes that have graduated since the program started: 11
Number of individuals who have completed CERT Basic Training Course since the program started: 125
Local CERT Programs offer training to the general public and/or to particular groups in the community. This CERT Program holds classes for the following groups:
  • General public / Open classes
  • Government groups
Language (s) in which the program conducts CERT training:
  • English
Supplemental Training
Supplemental training conducted, recommended, and/or required for CERT members:
  • CERT Animal Response I
  • CERT Animal Response II
  • IS-100.a Introduction to Incident Command System (ICS)
  • IS-200.a ICS for Single Resources
  • IS-700.a National Incident Management System (NIMS), An Introduction
  • Amateur radio operation
  • Additional CBRNE awareness
  • Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Automatic External Defibrillation (AED)
  • Additional damage assessment
  • Basic first aid
  • Mass care
  • Shelter operations/management
A total of 50 CERTs have participated in 6 exercises.
CERT in Action:
Number of times the CERTs have responded in actual emergencies: 4
Types of emergencies/disasters to which the CERTs have responded:
  • Flood
  • Pandemic
  • Winter storm
  • Other - Hepatitis
Activities During Emergencies
Activities conducted by CERTs during past emergencies:
  • Residential / Neighborhood checks
  • General evacuation
  • General evacuation
  • Sandbagging
  • Managing / processing supplies or donations
  • Traffic management / Crowd management
  • Staffing Emergency Operating Center
  • Staffing shelters
Non-Emergency Functions
Non-emergency functions performed by CERT members:
  • Conduct and support emergency preparedness efforts and projects, including sharing information with the public about protective actions and encouraging them to practice
  • Support for public safety at community events

Des Moines County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program Levels*

Des Moines County CERT volunteers consist of four (4) different levels of involvement.
  • 20 hours of core CERT training.
  • Interested in taking training to help my family and neighbors and interested in ongoing training or being part of any response team.
  • No additional communication from team.
  • 20 hours of core CERT training.
  • Interested in helping out team at emergency and non-emergency community events but do not necessarily want to attend monthly CERT training meetings.
  • Would assist as available with community events (crowd control, assisting with shelters, answering phones, or other community related response/service activities).
  • Receive limited communication from team.
  • 20 hours of core CERT training plus additional training in: the Incident Command System (IS-100), hazardous materials awareness, and traffic control.
  • Attend CERT meetings when able.
  • Level III volunteers are encouraged to participate in training exercises.
  • Would assist as available with community events (traffic and crowd control, assisting with community shelters, answering phones, or other community related response/service activities).
  • Receive regular communication from team.
  • All training of Level III plus CPR, First Aid, ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action I incidents (IS-200), and NIMS an Introduction (IS-700).
  • Attend 75% of CERT meetings, trainings, exercises and activations. Must participate in/observe a county-wide disaster exercise ever three years.
  • Respond under leadership of CERT / Emergency Management Coordinator to local disaster or emergency situations.
  • Would assist with 50% of community events (traffic and crowd control, assisting with community shelter operations, answering phones, public educational opportunities, or other community related response/service activities).
  • Receive regular communication from team.

Des Moines County Recognizes SKYWARN & CERT Volunteers for Service*

Recently the Des Moines County SKYWARN and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) teams met to distribute years of service awards. They distributed certificates and SKYWARN lapel pins for the SKYWARN volunteers – 25 people earned a 3-year certificate, 9 people received a 2-year certificate, 2 individuals received a 1-year certificate, and 3 new members earned appreciation certificates. The SKYWARN team handles the severe weather storm spotting for Des Moines County along with law enforcement, fire departments, and other trained weather spotters. The SKYWARN team participated in 17 activations in 2008, including 184 individuals.

The CERT team members also received certificates and CERT lapel pins – 16 members received a 2-year certificate, 9 a 1-year certificate, and 4 new members received appreciation certificates. The CERT team is involved in many education opportunities, does parade security, security at the Des Moines County Fair, communications at the Triathlon, plus much, much more for the community. They participated in 10 events for a total of 515 hours of volunteer time in 2008.

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December 26, 2008

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Annual Awards Dinner at Gator's

We had a small group of volunteers and their family members attend the SKYWARN and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) awards banquet last Saturday night. The SKYWARN volunteers participated in 17 weather related activiations in 2011. The CERT group volunteered 375+ hours in 2011. These volunteers are awesome and do a great job of keeping us safe. Thank you for all you do everyone!— with James Seaberg, Angie Parsons, James Houghton, Jared Sommerfelt, Michael Rosenblatt, Ryan Smith, John Porter and Thomas Colthurst.

February 11, 2012 6:30pm

‎May ‎13, ‎2006
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CERT Search & Rescue Trending Pictures & Videos

Iowa Severe Weather Awareness Week - Gina Hardin Burlington City Council
April 5 2011 6:30pm
edit by Ryan Smith.

Franken 5K Run/walk West Burlington
October 25 2014 9:00am
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December ‎02, ‎2007
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September 24 2011
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Des Moines County Emergency Management 2013 Volunteer Award Celebration
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Basic Sign Language Ms. Diane Yotter
August 5 2014
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Fire Extinguisher Review Barney Paytes CERT/SKYWARN
October 7 2014
edit by Ryan Smith.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Guest Blog: Des Moines County CERT stays busy promoting preparedness
A Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is an important resource for communities in the aftermath of a disaster when emergency services may not be immediately available. The Des Moines County CERT, which received a Governor’s Volunteer Award in June, has also organized many public education and preparedness activities for residents. Team member Christopher de la Rosa talks about the Des Moines County CERT activities for Preparedness Month.
The Des Moines County CERT first took on National Preparedness Month as a full-fledged program last year. In doing so we attempted to create many events with both local and national vendors and organizations, and tried to incorporate the FEMA National Preparedness Month graphics and program package as quickly as possible considering the late release date on their end. As expected there was a humbling learning curve, but valuable lessons were learned and new approaches were eagerly applied to this year’s effort.

A small committee of volunteers was created, and, for lack of a better term it was simply referred to as the core committee, which started implementing programs throughout the year in preparation for National Preparedness Month. The intent was to keep a centralized and flexible group to handle projects and in doing so, only have a small set of names and faces for the other organizations to relate.

We started a partnership program where we presented events and ideas with the intent being that coordination and implementation would benefit the organization approached, the local CERT, but more importantly, the public at large. We’re excited to say more often than not, those we approached were eager to partner with us. We’ve tripled our partner count this year and look at doing that yet again by this time next year.

Although we didn’t use it yet, the hospital approved sponsoring a banner last year and we will probably acquire that at the end of this month utilizing pictures of some of this year’s Preparedness Month events in the design. Working with the local agencies also led to partnering with the Burlington Police Department, and from there interest was gained from other organizations wanting to participate, if not this year, then in following years.

This year, displays at the library and the local mall were created using the theme provided by FEMA and the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, each very successful and welcomed and enthusiastically coordinated. The mall donated empty storefront windows for the entirety of September, donating not only space but electricity and labor as well to assure the final product was well received and interesting to the public. A kiosk was offered to be dedicated strictly for our literature and promotions; we’re currently producing larger scale posters that should appear more pronounced in the large walkways.

From that initial attempt we moved on to grocery stores, hardware stores, specialty shops and suppliers offering the most commonly recommended items and services in the preparedness motif. Nearer to the end of the month, Hy-Vee is supplying an area in the entrance and lobby to place their inventory of preparedness items along with our literature, asking that for one day of the week during their busiest hours we provide a representative to answer questions and educate the customers on how to best prepare for emergencies and disasters. Similarly, Lowe’s offered the same setting as did a farm supply store. Most general managers mentioned how they appreciated the fact that not only did they do something for the public but that it was a great opportunity to promote their own ideas as well. Next year has an opportunity with more planning to include our literature in some of the cooperating stores’ September coupon and weekly fliers.

In each instance custom and FEMA promotional materials were displayed. That same awareness drive was then prompted forward to church and faith-based organizations, local chamber of commerce mailing lists, philanthropic organizations, as well as through press releases and placement in downtown business and many restaurant storefronts. The largest employers in the area have offered to not only promote the month but to place our messages and promotions year-round in their employee break rooms and general areas. In some cases our designs are being placed on large electronic bulletin boards. The local access cable channel is now one of the venues we use to help promote awareness to the public as well. In each case, an e-mail address is provided for the public to submit questions, request literature or schedule training classes.

Speaking of training, the Des Moines County CERT has four volunteers who went to train-the-trainer classes for CPR/AED and first aid. As part of the National Preparedness Month program, we’re initializing a small class that will be offered free of charge to the public. We hope to inspire the need for more classes to be created. In keeping with the idea of doing what you can for your community, we also partnered with Mississippi Regional Blood Center to promote drives and mutually support one another’s events and for CERT to have our sponsorship code where members and family can donate blood and “credit” their visit on behalf of the CERT organization.

We partnered with local pet supply vendors and veterinarian clinics to display animal specific literature and suggestions regarding Preparedness Month. Going one step further, we coordinated efforts with one veterinarian to work with us on creating a pet-exclusive first aid kit to keep at home, designed for and focusing on the most commonly seen pets at the clinics as well as for some farm animals in our specific area. The same veterinarian has signed on as a partner to help out on similar events and most particularly every National Preparedness Month from now on, and thanked us for doing this for the community.

As a whimsical promotion for the younger preparedness student we launched a geocache site to appeal to the kids and to allow them to find preparedness-themed treats and stickers and 72-hour kit items such as flashlights and whistles. A popular item is our in-house-designed stickers with phrases like “I’m CERTifiable!” and “I’m READY!” I wear the “I’m CERTifiable” sticker often. It is a great promotion, gets lots of looks, and has a chaotically smiling happy yellow ball on it, which works great since I can be chaotic and am quite round!

A kid’s day, scavenger hunt, displays from the local utility company, and other events were discussed but would have to wait until next year. A pilot program for HAM radio licensing was established internally as well and in time we hope to open it to the public in the future.

With each successful event, promotion, and effort comes a much more developed foundation for us to launch from the following year, with more partners, more volunteers, and a more aware public. CERT’s mission and the message gets more and more focus, and isn’t being aware and prepared what Preparedness Month is all about?
Christopher de la Rosa
Des Moines County CERT
Christopher can be reached at

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