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.