CERT Resources

Special Topics

Organizing CERT Communications

Emergency communications center

Communication between team members during CERT activation and operations is critical. During alert or mobilization, team members need to communicate rapidly and efficiently. How communications are organized becomes extremely important to CERT operations.

Click on the links below for more information about how to organize CERT communications.

Selecting Communications Methods

There is a range of methods for communicating among CERT members, and each has advantages and disadvantages. In most CERT programs, some combination of the communication methods is used.

Method Advantages Disadvantages
  • Can be used to alert/mobilize team quickly
  • Some offer text messaging for communicating between individuals or the entire team
  • Unit cost is relatively inexpensive
  • Service can be expensive, especially for two-way messaging
  • Cannot be used for tactical or emergency communications
  • Everyone has one
  • Most useful for mobilization when advance warning of an incident is possible
  • Must use a "tree," which can be interrupted if protocols are not followed
  • Takes time to use
  • May not be available following some disasters
Cellular Phone
  • Ownership becoming more common
  • Portable
  • Initial and continuing costs for individuals
  • Must use a "tree," which can be interrupted if protocols are not followed
  • May not be available following some disasters
  • May be unreliable in some areas
  • Battery life is short
  • Not secure
Two-Way Radios
  • Portable and inexpensive
  • Can speak to multiple persons simultaneously
  • Not secure; others can listen and/or interrupt CERT communications
  • Limited range, especially in areas with tall buildings
  • Relatively short battery life
  • Should not be used in bomb threat situations

Source: This information was provided by Jim Piper, Aptos-La Selva Fire Department, Aptos, California

Planning Considerations

When determining how CERTs will communicate, you should first identify who will need to communicate to whom.

Communication methods for team alerts and activation should be discussed with the teams. Some teams may agree to purchase Nextel® cellular phones with two-way communication capabilities if they are available in the area. Other teams may decide that a land-line system will work best. Whatever method is selected for alert and notification, it should be:

Communicating During a Response

During a response, CERTs will have a variety of communications requirements. Some of the communications required of all CERTs during emergencies include:

Setting Up Communications

As you think about setting up communications, consider two-way radios for:

Communicating Via Amateur Radio

If your community has a RACES or ARES organization, you may wish to incorporate a radio operator to communicate between the Team Leader (Command Post) and the Incident Command or Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

Regardless of how you establish CERT communications, be sure to test them thoroughly during exercises.

Click the below links to access Connection articles on CERT Communications: