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CERT…Just for Disasters?

MARCH 2024 Timothy Jacobs-Chief, Missoula MT CERT

Our CERT Team has spent time over the last couple of years volunteering to help with planned events in our area. There are several reasons we decided to do these events. I will go into detail shortly, but the biggest reason was and is name recognition to help boost recruitment.

Recently, we have some new members that were in previous CERT Teams before moving to our area. It has been mentioned that doing these types of events “takes away from the CERT brand” and that CERT should not do any events that are not “emergency related”. Let me begin by giving you, the reader, a caveat. Our team is a 501(3)(c) non profit, and we govern ourselves. We do have the support of, and work closely with our OEM, but we are not governed by a sponsoring agency, rather we work directly with our State Liaison. That being said, if you have a sponsoring agency, you should abide by their deployment and usage of CERT policies. However, that does not mean that you can’t bring up a discussion about your team participating in planned events.

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We decided that offering assistance to other entities in our area would get us more name recognition and help us get more members. We also look at it as community outreach.

We get to work in our community and community members get to see us. This leads to questions about who we are and what CERT does. While social media is great, word of mouth, and actually seeing people performing CERT duties also provides great advertisement for CERT. Another benefit is that assisting one agency can lead to other agencies requesting your help. For instance, you help with the Fair. Then another agency is talking with the Fair people about what they’re doing and they need help with, let’s say traffic control for their event. The Fair people tell them to call CERT because they helped them with the fair. It’s a great way to network.

Missoula CERT Assisting with Fair/Rodeo

CERT, Red Cross and local Bank working together for the Bank’s Volunteer day installing smoke detectors for the elderly

As the picture to the right shows, our CERT Team teamed up with the Red Cross to assist a local Bank with their Volunteer day. The Bank closes for one day and their employees participate in a volunteer project sponsored by the Bank. We assisted in installing smoke detectors in elderly people’s homes. What!? Think about it. Doesn’t making sure community members a prepared for an emergency fall within the CERT realm? We said yes it does and in turn formed a great relationship with the local Red Cross and the Bank. We started assisting the local marathon group with smaller races doing traffic control for them and then they asked us to assist the PD with traffic control for the biggest race of the year. This helped us gain respect with the PD and other emergency agencies that we may have not worked with before. This respect led to CERT being requested to do traffic control for a fallen firefighter funeral so that the emergency personnel could attend. We were also recently asked by PD to assist with an area door-to-door canvas for a missing person. Why? Because they trust and respect us because we help with things other than disasters.

Another benefit of working planned events is that it is a good way to bolster training and help with documentation goals. It gives you an opportunity to treat the planned event just like an emergency call out. It lets your team get to practice their documentation skills. Another great use is to be able to complete books for NQS. Since the NQS system added positions for CERT Personnel, they have to complete their “book” to be certified for that position. Planned events are a good way to have your members complete things they need to do, such as: Team briefing, completing ICS forms, transfer of command, and many others. We use our six day stent helping with the rodeo to get a lot of these done. If you are unfamiliar with the NQS system, use the following link for more info:

One caveat you should remember is to remind the agency requesting your help that your participation in their event is dependent on an actual emergency/disaster occurrence.

Missoula CERT members doing traffic control for fallen firefighter funeral.

So, should CERT be used strictly for disasters/emergencies? I would say emphatically NO. Does working planned events take away from the CERT brand? Absolutely not, if anything, it actually helps the brand. It brings trust and cooperation with other agenceies, fosters trust from the community, increases recognition and enrollment and it keeps your members engaged. Think about this for a second. How many disasters/emergencies does your team actually have each year? In most places, not that many. So how do you keep your team engaged and on their toes? The best answer for our team was reaching out and volunteering to help others with the skills we learn from CERT and doing the most good.

Tim Jacobs is Chairman of the Board, Chief of Field Operations, Training Coordinator and Program Manager for Missoula Montana CERT. For questions or comments email him directly at