"When disasters occur, professional first responders are not the first on the scene. If access is obstructed or the agency's capacity is exceeded, it may be hours -- or days -- before professional help arrives. In this environment, nonprofessional members of the public spontaneously reach out to help those affected. Without information and training, however, spontaneous assistance can sometimes fail to meet its objectives. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) programs support and direct post-disaster public energy to ensure that non-professional response is as safe and effective as possible. CERT program activities can create risk and adverse consequences; however, perceptions about liability may be a larger barrier for CERT formation, activities and partnerships than is justified by reality. There is no indication that CERT programs have any unusual liability experience. Still, perceptions can pose as great a barrier as reality. The purpose of this Guide is to offer information and suggested techniques to help CERT programs overcome this barrier. Those who will benefit from this information include local CERT programs, their sponsoring government agencies and legal advisors, and CERT members themselves."
United States. Federal Emergency Management Agency: http://www.fema.gov/