Manchester Community Emergency Response Team looking for members offers free training session

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Mar. 29, 2013

In Manchester, the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, is looking for new members. Any individual who is interested in gaining the skills they need to better protect their families and neighbors during an emergency situation can attend a free, eight-part training class beginning Thursday, April 25.

The concept behind CERT is to ready civilians so that they are prepared to react to a major disaster or severe storm while the town's first responders are busy elsewhere. “It started in around 2002 by George Bush,” said Donald Janelle, deputy emergency manager for the Town of Manchester. “After the Mexico City earthquake, civilians were getting killed when they were trying to help out because all the emergency responders were tied up.”

There are about 80 towns in Connecticut with CERTs, and Manchester was the second town in the state to have one (the team is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year). CERT in Manchester was formed when three different groups merged together. A group of individuals involved in emcom (emergency communications) such as ham radio operators, the town's volunteer mountain bike search and rescue team, and the Connecticut Canine Search and Rescue Team provided each other their complimentary services. “It was a natural marriage of the three groups,” said Janelle. The CERT team is well-adapted to finding lost hikers in the Case Mountain area, and can also perform search and rescue in urban areas, for example, when a senior with Alzheimer's leaves their home and gets lost.

They also help at the emergency shelter and provide the clerical work involved with emergency operations support, which frees up town resources during an emergency.

Those who go through the training are not obligated to become members of CERT. “People sometimes say, I don't really want to be on an emcom team, I don't really want to go out on a search and rescue, I just want to be able to protect my family during an emergency,” said Janelle. The CERT training is ideal for those who want to gain basic skills that could be vital during an emergency, such as first aid, CPR, turning off power to a home and using a fire extinguisher. The training also goes over disaster psychology, examining how people react during a disaster or under pressure.

“Some people take the class, say thank you, and return home confident that they can better protect their families and neighbors,” Janelle said. “Others want to give back to the town, and so they join the team, and this is how they help out.”

About 250 people have been trained since 2003, and the team maintains about 85 members at any given time. “We're just ready for whatever we have to do,” said Janelle. Whether it's closing off streets or putting up barricades, or performing a health and welfare check on a resident on an oxygen generator who has lost power. “Whatever the incident needs, we try to accomplish,” he said.

The class runs every Thursday for eight weeks, beginning April 25. Classes start at 6:30 p.m., and can run until 9:30 p.m., though most classes are typically shorter. Training takes place at the Field Services Division building at 321 Olcott St., on the second floor. For more information, contact Janelle at 860-647-5259 or djanelle@manchesterct.gov.


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