CERT Resources

Special Topics

Reducing Liability

stack of law books

Some of the most frequently asked questions about CERT programs concern liability and how to manage the liability for the CERT program. Actually, providing training in how to respond safely and effectively in an emergency is a positive way to address liability and prepare CERT members, especially given the alternative of having spontaneous volunteers "show up to help." There are proactive steps you can take to manage liability concerns for your program.

Click on the links below to learn more about reducing liability.

Conducting Research

As a CERT Program Manager, you are also a volunteer manager who needs to become familiar with the regulatory requirements for volunteers in your State. Virtually all States have laws dealing with liability, interviewing, and discrimination in selection, and you will need to conduct some research to ensure that your program is compliant.

Some suggestions for conducting research include

Conducting Research: Web Resources

This table includes links to helpful web resources for conducting your research.

Web Resources Information Provided
Protecting Yourself From Lawsuits
  • Background information on theories of liability and how they relate in application
  • Steps to take to limit liability
Legal Information Institute
  • Basic liability protection for volunteers, as established by 42 U.S.C., Chapter 139, Section 14503
  • Limitations on punitive damages based on actions of volunteers
  • Exceptions to limitations on liability
"Federal Law Protects Non-Profit Volunteers" Non-Profit Issues, December 1997
  • Liability protections under the Volunteer Protection Act
Thomas Legislative Information on the Internet
  • Information on recently passed (Federal) laws by searching by bill number, bill text, or subject
State and Local Government on the Net
  • Departments or agency by State, including State volunteer agencies
  • State and Federal laws and specific subjects, such as disability rights
  • Answers to questions about specific legal issues (submitted using a web form)

Reducing Liability During Training: Instructors

Steps that you can take with your instructors to help reduce liability include:

Additionally, be sure that your instructors understand that they can give students permission to opt out of an activity if they have a condition that they may aggravate by participating.

Reducing Liability During Training: Students

Steps that you can take with CERT students to help reduce liability include:

Reducing Liability During Training: Classroom/Exercise Areas

Steps that you can take to ensure that the CERT classroom and exercise area are safe include:

Be sure to make these checks before every class begins.

Reducing Liability During Training: Materials

The main step to take to reduce liability related to the CERT materials is to ensure that you have written releases for all copyrighted materials (including photographs and cartoons). (Note that if you are using FEMA's materials without alteration, all necessary copyright releases have been secured.) Remember that photographs and other materials found on the Internet are copyrighted.

Reducing Liability: During Exercises

Always take the measures below to reduce liability during exercises

Reducing Liability: During Team Activation

Take the measures below to reduce liability during team activation:

For these measures to work as intended, you will need to take action before activation and reinforce the measures during team exercises.