Emergency response team in the works
At Thursday's meeting of the
Local Emergency Planning Committee
, committee members approved going ahead with a plan to establish a local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program.
The volunteer-based program would have the ability to prepare for and respond to a number of emergency situations, such as winter storms.
CERT was developed in 1994 by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Nationally, CERT groups are a program of Citizen Corps, a network of community-based volunteer organizations.
The goal of Citizen Corps - which also includes Neighborhood Watches, Volunteers in Police Service and Medical Reserve Corps - is to help communities prepare and respond to emergencies.
While they don't replace police, fire and medical personnel in cases of emergency, CERT volunteers are trained to provide assistance when those services are unable to meet the demand placed upon them.
New Milford Emergency Management Director Marla Scribner used as an example a devastating winter storm.
In the case of an ice storm, for example, CERT volunteers would be able to help set up emergency shelters, but could possibly assist in transporting elderly or disabled community members to safety.
"They just step in with whatever's needed," said Scribner.
According to CERT coordinator Jack Mangin , CERT volunteers could even be used during special events, such as concerts, to help with traffic and crowd control, freeing up police officers for more pressing work.
Mangin said a New Milford CERT is needed because there is currently no group trained to offer the kind of support CERT volunteers can offer.
In addition, he said, Connecticut recently formed a state CERT and is working to set standards for all CERT groups. By having its own CERT, New Milford would have a seat on the council.
With the committee's approval in hand, Mangin said he and co-coordinator Karen Bresson hope to begin meeting with local civic groups to spread the word on CERT and recruit volunteers.
Volunteers must go through 20 hours of training in which they learn disaster preparation, fire safety, and disaster medical operations including triage and light search and rescue.
CERT volunteers would then receive a kit including a whistle, hard hat, gloves and flashlights. They may also receive a two-way radio or other communication device.
According to Mangin, the initial cost of training and supplying the volunteers would be borne by the city. However, government reimbursement grants are available.
For more information or to learn how to volunteer for New Milford's Community Emergency Response Team call Jack Mangin at (860) 354-9726 or Karen Bresson at (860) 354-4712.