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Twp. Forms Volunteer Disaster Response Team

Residents looking to help during emergencies can join CERT.

Washington Township was dealt a variety of inclement weather blows in the latter half of 2011, , and a in the final days of October.

During those times, roads were closed because of downed power lines and trees, and thousands of residents were without power–some for up to nine days.

It was then that Washington Township realized its Office of Emergency Management (OEM) department was overmatched, and needed to take a different direction before weather-related problems happened again.

Jim Smith, the facility operator and OEM Deputy Coordinator, has taken the reigns and is asking for volunteers to get involved.

The department is asking that residents 18 years and older join the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and be part of a volunteer effort when the time comes to lend a hand to the community.

“(CERT) Volunteers might be needed to barricade an intersection when a road is closed, and free up one of our officers and squad cars,” Smith said. “If there’s a need to open a shelter, like we did during the snowstorm, CERT members can help us operate that facility.”

No prior training is needed for volunteers, Smith said, but anyone with first-responder training would be helpful.

Smith was the OEM coordinator for 13 years in Independence Township before he moved to another municipality. State law requires that coordinators must live within that town’s borders. Mayor Ken Short is the OEM Coordinator for Washington Township.

Volunteers will go through an interview process and have their finger prints taken at police headquarters for background check purposes, Smith said.

Volunteers will undergo an eight-step training process, Smith said, and once he or she has ‘graduated’ from training, will be able to help during a disaster.

CERT members will attend monthly meetings at police headquarters, Smith said, and may take part in drills to help keep active and use their training.

In the event of an emergency or disaster, CERT members would convene at the police department and be instructed as to where and how they can assist local law enforcement and first-responders, Smith said.

“During the snowstorm, I saw someone made a comment on the Internet about Washington Township’s OEM being ‘M.I.A.,’” Smith said. “We can’t have that happen. People need help during those times, whether it’s shelter or food or communication.”

Smith will undergo additional CERT training at Warren County Community College in April, and hopes to have the township’s team in place by May 1 so training can begin.

Attached to this article is a PDF application to join the CERT group.

Richard Todd February 15, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I certainly do not wish to discourage volunteers but we have a Police Department, Fire Department, First Aid Squad, Township Road Department, the power company has a response cell, and we have cooperation with near by communities for additional hel should it be needed. Maybe the volunteers could be organized into a coordination and planning cell to make best use of the existing assets and organization, more good intentioned people could just add to confusion and get in the way of the critical responders.
Bob Kelly February 15, 2012 at 01:40 PM
To get an application you can complete and then print from your computer, visit http://wtmorris.org/departments/oem/images/CERT_Application.pdf. Bob Kelly WT Webmaster
Robert E Kelly February 15, 2012 at 01:53 PM
The Police Department, Fire Department, First Aid Squad and DPW can be overloaded with calls for service in an emergency, as in any of the hurricanes, flash flood or Octoblizzard we experienced lately. The CERT volunteers operate under the direction and control of the local Office of Emergency Management, to assist Emergency Services. Utilizing emergency responders who are not trained in shelter management in lieu of volunteers who are, is a poor use of emergency resources. CERT is much more than "good intentioned people (who) could just add to confusion and get in the way of the critical responders". CERT is a valuable addition to the community, and will assist Long Valley in taking care of it's own, without relying on or sending residents to another municipality.
Kevin February 15, 2012 at 02:19 PM
What qualifies the mayor to be in charge of OEM? Does this position require someone who has knowledge of emergency management and situations?
1819 February 17, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Qualifications? Lack of multiple criminal convictions would be a first step, don't you think, Kevin?

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