By Jim Clark
The Somerville Board of Alderman, at their meeting on Feb. 14, formally requested that the mayor implement a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in the city.
The volunteer citizen support group, which is part of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration), would assist city emergency response efforts during emergency or disaster situations.
According to Citizen Corps, a FEMA sponsored organization, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT members also are encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking a more active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.
Speaking in favor of the request, Alderman At Large Connolly said, “I think after this past storm, wouldn’t it have been nice to have additional people that might have been able to assist with clearing hydrants on streets and to assist with any particular medical emergencies?” Connolly went on to point out, “FEMA, through its subsidiary Citizen Corps, has funds available for local governments to have a Community Emergency Response Team. These funds are used to help train interested individuals in the community who want to assist in disaster areas.”
“I’m asking the Administration to take a look at this,” Connolly stated. “I’d like this item sent to the Committee on Public Health and Public Safety, and request that the Chief of Police, the Chief of the Fire Department, the DPW Director and the mayor, that they take a look at this as a way to assist the City of Somerville when there is a major disaster or difficulty.”
The Alderman At Large reminded the Board of the 800 volunteers who lent aid during the recent Mexico City earthquake, whereby some 100 of them lost their lives trying to pull victims from the debris because of a lack of training.
“FEMA is basically giving some opportunity to take volunteers from the community who might be willing to participate and help in a major disaster situation,” said Connolly. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the city to explore.”
The request was approved by the Board without objection. The matter will go before Committee for further study and discussion.
More information about the CERT program can be found on its website: http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert/