Over the past few years, Westport has weathered some severe storms. The recent anniversary of 9/11 reminds us: We never know when disaster will strike.
As a coastal community not far from New York, we have to be ready for anything.
Thanks to CERT, we are.
The organization — known formally as the Community Emergency Response Team — is a group of specially trained volunteer emergency responders. They provide aid during and after hurricanes, blizzards, power and communication failures, you name it. If Westport needs help, CERT is there.
Westport CERT volunteers, at a recent training session.
They’re there for non-emergencies too. CERT assists at big public events, like the Compo Beach fireworks and Maker Faire.
Now they’re expanding their services.
Over the next few months, CERT will offer education programs in personal preparedness, active shooter awareness and response, and situations involving domestic and international terrorism.
A free class — open to the public — will be held starting the evening of Friday, October 18, and continuing that weekend. It covers disaster psychology, fire control, rescue, shelter management, first aid, CPR and more.
Local residents who want to become CERT volunteers are encouraged to attend.
In times of crisis — a hurricane, blizzard, prolonged power outage — most of us want to be safe and secure. If not, we want to be helped.
A few of us want to be the ones helping.
If you’ve ever wanted to be trained — for free! — in first aid, CPR, disaster psychology, search and rescue and other emergency skills, help is at hand.
CERT — Westport’s Community Emergency Response Team — is offering 20 hours of instruction. And you do not have to be a Westport resident to join.
Part of the CERT crew that keeps Westport safe.
Training takes place on Friday, February 24 (6:30 to 10:30 p.m.), Saturday, February 25 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday, February 26 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The site is Westport Police headquarters.
CERT is a little known but hugely important volunteer agency that supports our uniformed services like police, fire and EMS. It’s run in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security and Westport’s emergency management personnel.
For more information click here, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Ernest Heidelberg at 203-226-0780.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Kris Nash was amazed that many of the well-meaning people streaming into New York City could not be used. They had no skills useful in an emergency.
When Westport offered its 1st CERT — Community Emergency Response Team — class in 2003, she realized she could gain those skills right here.
An important — but little-known — volunteer organization that’s a division of the Police Department, CERT supports local emergency service agencies in disaster, crisis and emergency response. CERT also promotes safety education, emergency and disaster preparedness.
CERT does not perform functions normally done by police, fire or EMS personnel. They are simply — and vitally — extra helping hands.
During a big rainstorm a few years ago, CERT volunteers stood near some of the 59 closed roads, warning drivers of downed trees and power lines. Kris — stationed at the corner of the Post Road and Bulkeley — used her 35 years’ knowledge of Westport streets to give alternate directions.
“At the end of my shift I felt wet, cold and happy,” she says. “I felt I had been able to help people in a practical way.”
Luckily, Kris says, most of the helping so far has come in small ways: helping attendees at a crowded flu clinic or First Night; finding parking at the 4th of July fireworks.
A few CERT volunteers march in the Memorial Day parade. The others are working, keeping parade and pedestrian traffic apart.
CERT has not yet faced a true disaster — but they are ready. Regular training includes opening up and managing an emergency shelter. They’ve been part of an anti-terrorism exercise at the University of Bridgeport — simulating a terrorist and hostage situation — with police, SWAT teams and emergency responders from several towns.
They also trained with Metro-North in a scenario involving a train wreck and the shutdown of I-95, and did 2 exercises at the Senior Center (1 simulated running an emergency shelter during a coastal storm; the other involved search, rescue and treatment of victims of a plane crash).
CERT volunteers train in a variety of ways.
CERT volunteers range in age from 20s to 70s. There are engineers, teachers, artists, writers, builders, medical professionals, real estate agents, business executives, and a veterarian, psychologist and librarian.
The next time you see a Westporter wearing a bright yellow vest, ask him or her about CERT. Or for help. Or directions to the nearest bathroom.
In any event, that’s what CERT is there for.
(CERT offers new training series regularly — the next is set for fall. Basic sessions include radio use, light search and rescue, triage, CPR, first aid, water safety, fire suppression and use of fire extinguishers.
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