Business Emergency Response Teams

Businesses play a critical role in disaster response and recovery. Not only are our business communities responsible for much of the country’s critical infrastructure such as electricity, water, fuel, and communications; but they also provide daily necessities such as food and clothing. In the wake of a disaster, these resources and capabilities available in the private sector will be critical in community recovery. In addition, the 40 hour work week combined with large commuting populations means that many locations, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, have large populations removed from their support structures and available supplies. These people, in turn, will create a massive strain on local emergency responders in the wake of a disaster.

Working with partners in the Southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Private Sector Advisory Committee developed a series of trainings to assist businesses in preparing and responding to a disaster. Working off of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) framework, these South Bay partners created the Business Emergency Response Team (BERT). The program instructs individuals in how to prepare both themselves and their businesses for a wide variety of disaster events. This takes a previously vulnerable population and turns them into an asset during disaster response as well as community recovery.

The BERT training differs from normal CERT training in that businesses may add their own modules addressing their individual emergency response plans. This is because, as Business Emergency Response Teams, their primary role is life safety at their location followed by the necessities of business continuity. The purpose behind this is two-fold. The BERTs make the business much more self-sufficient in the wake of a disaster, thereby relieving a large strain on the local professional emergency responders. The teams also facilitate the reopening of the business after an event, thereby greatly helping the recovery of not just the business, but the community as a whole.

By using official CERT materials and trainers, the BERT members become recognized Disaster Service Workers, meaning that once they have seen to their business related priorities, they may expand out into the larger community and render aid like a normal CERT. As part of the program, the BERT partners with its local emergency response organizations (often the local fire department). This turns the team into a part of the community instead of an isolated island in the wake of a disaster.

By preparing businesses and individuals, this program enhances overall community resilience. When individuals are prepared, they can focus on repairing and restarting their businesses as quickly as possible. When businesses are prepared, the can return to operations sooner, thereby helping the economy to recover, a critical step in overall community recovery.

Interested in starting a BERT at your business? Contact the CRA at


How You Can Help:

As part of its ongoing mission, the CRA is committed to supporting and growing these strategic and operational partnerships to benefit disaster recovery. You can help us with these important initiatives in a number of ways:

  • Start or join a Private Sector Advisory Committee in your jurisdiction – Ask us how!
  • Volunteer to become a Private Sector BOC Representative in the jurisdictions where you work and live
  • Spread the word to your friends, colleagues, co-workers, and at your place of business
  • Support the CRA! As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, donations are tax deductible and beneficial to your community’s effective recovery from disasters.

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