Clifton Park CERT volunteer Tamar Duval setting up for a community event. Photo Submitted.
Clifton Park First responders can’t always cover some of the more routine aspects of their jobs during widespread emergencies. Often, a second level of support is needed to answer phones from a central location or organize shelters during large storms.
This is where CERTs, or Community Emergency Response Teams step in. Their presence relieves first responders of those tasks so that they can actively tend to incidents. Clifton Park’s group has been running since 2004 and with 70members, it is one of 24 in the state.
Other CERTs include teams at SUNY Oneonta, Rensselaer County and the Champlain Valley. Nationally, there are 2,050 teams. CERTS are made up of volunteer community residents trained in basic first aid, CPR and other areas. Training enables them to be at the ready when requested by their community to respond to emergencies including lost children, wildfires, explosions, tropical storms or power outages.
Mandatory basic CERT training in the amount of 30 hours is required of all participants, along with regular refresher courses.
CERTs formed in 1994 by FEMA, operating under the larger umbrella of Citizens Corps. They are funded in part by Homeland Security, Citizens Corps and state agencies, according to FEMA’s National CERT Director Rachael Jacky.
Many times people who want to help aren’t aware of how to do it safely or without interfering with what professional responders are doing.
“CERT deals with all of those challenges and makes sure that its volunteers are a 100 percent good thing for communities,” Jacky said.
Clifton Park’s Director of Community Development and CERT, Barbara McHugh coordinates operations of the town’s team and said they receive an average of $10,000 annually. Usually the team “breaks even” between those funds and community events like National Night Out in July.
Town Supervisor Phil Barrett is the team’s emergency manager, the person responsible for activating the group to respond to emergencies.