South Orange residents have always been the kind of people to step up and help their community when it is in need. Unfortunately, the opportunities offered to residents to get involved proactively are not as extensive as they could be. But with the formal launch of a new Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), residents have an exciting, interesting, and proactive way to get involved with their community and even help keep our town safe.
The idea of CERT originally came from the Los Angeles Fire Department in the 1990s as a way to better prepare those who might be effected by a natural disaster, most notably in California an earthquake or wildfire. The idea of having civilians equipped with knowledge and training was seen as a major advance in emergency management. Since then, CERT has expanded and now there are 750 CERT programs with 150,000 members nationwide.
Local residents are those who constitute any given CERT program. After a 20 hour basic training that covers disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, incident command, disaster psychology and terrorism, CERT members are ready to help their community in two primary ways:
The first is the ongoing effort to keep our town safe and prepared. CERT members have received valuable trainings, interfaced with public safety and emergency services personnel and generally are well-equipped to deal with any public safety related issue that might come up on a daily basis. This means that - for free - 24/7/365 our town is safer. Whether it is knowing what to do in the first few seconds of a fire, what information to give to EMS if you witness a medical emergency or how to turn off your home’s gas in an emergency, the information CERT provides is valuable no matter if CERT has been officially activated for a response or not.
The second primary function of CERT is to support professional rescuers. In a large flood, power outage or man-made incident, recalling municipal public safety personnel can be difficult as only a small number of them actually live in South Orange. Roadway/infrastructure problems could further hinder their ability at getting on scene in town quickly. CERT is an important resource because there will be a cadre of lay rescuers who can begin helping their families and neighbors immediately if disaster strikes.
CERT is entirely constituted of volunteers and funded by external grants - this entire program costs the town nothing. The Citizens Public Safety Committee has been supportive of getting more people involved in the public safety aspects of our town and I’m really excited to be able to announce a new training session starting on Saturday, March 24. The trainings will be from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and will be held at Seton Hall University. The classes are on March 24, March 31, April 14 and April 21.
A few notes about CERT: 1. Makeup classes will be made available 2. CERT members will never be expected to put themselves harms way 3. CERT does entail the possibility of physical lifting and moving of other people/equipment. 4. You do not need any prior training to join CERT.
The bottom line is this: if you have been interested or curious about how to make a positive impact in South Orange, I urge you to take a look at the website below or come to a Citizens Public Safety Committee meeting. CERT will impart valuable life-saving skills to you and you’ll get a chance to work as a real team with our town’s police, fire and EMS personnel in an educational environment.
To get more information about CERT, or to signup for either this upcoming training, or any trainings forthcoming, visit the South Orange CERT website. I hope to see some of you in the first class on March 24!