NYC’s CERT Program Offers Disaster Response Training

Unite your community to fight disaster with CERT training.
NYC CERT training
NYC CERT training is offered through NYC's Office of Emergency Management, Fire Department and Police Department.|Photo by NYC CERT

New York City is unique, and so are the hazards it faces. That’s why New York’s CERT training is different. Conducted through the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM), along with the FDNY and NYPD, the CERT program has been adapted and enhanced to reflect the unique circumstances of living and working in New York City. Part of the uniqueness is that NYC has more first responders than most other areas in the country. Those trained and credentialed under NYC CERT support first responders, rather than respond themselves. That way there is no duplicity of effort and CERT volunteers are not placed in immediate danger. The NYC OEM’s Watch Command deploys CERT teams to emergencies and planned events.

UNIQUE HAZARDS: “We’ve added elements that are very unique to our needs,” said Herman Schaffer, assistant commissioner of community outreach for the NYC Office of Emergency Management. “New York City has a tremendous amount of high-rise and low-rise buildings, so we focus a lot of training on what people should do in the event there is an evacuation from your home or office.”

SERVE & PROTECT: The infrastructure of New York City is not typical either. “Subways, trains, buses and tunnels are unique circumstances,” explained Schaffer, “and we teach people what to do and what to avoid in these environments should an emergency happen.” Another curriculum module that New York’ CERT teaches deals with human services, which includes vulnerable populations, those with disabilities and functional needs and working with people who speak different languages.

All New York CERT volunteers must be accepted in the program. You need to be 18 or older, live or work in New York City and pass a background check. You then embark on a 10-week training program with classes held on consecutive evenings. Each session is about three and half hours long, with hands-on training supplemented with classroom instruction.

Instructors are active-duty FDNY, NYPD and OEM personnel. Training includes instruction on high-rise and utility emergencies, search and rescue, building community disaster networks, medical operations, fire safety, police science and terrorism awareness. Graduates participate in a disaster simulation that encompasses the entire curriculum. “The curriculum is updated every two years,” noted Schaffer, “so we can be sure we are providing the right instruction.” For more info, visit

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Winter 2016 edition. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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