CERT program graduates 11
Community Emergency Response Team aids in disaster events
By Joe Weston
Sparta — During its June 24 meeting, the Sparta Town Council recognized 11 citizens who recently graduated from the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, course as announced by Councilwoman Christine Quinn, who was partially responsible for bringing the nationally recognized program to Sparta.
“After [Superstorm] Sandy paid its visit, there were a lot of opportunities identified in town as to where we could improve on the civilian preparedness and reaction front. We decided it would be a good thing for Sparta to have its own community emergency response team,” Quinn said.
Alex Kloian, Sparta Township CERT coordinator and head instructor for the recent graduating class, was chosen to design the class.
Quinn and Police Chief Ernest Reigstad also co-taught the CERT program in Sparta, making presentations to the 22-hour, nine-session class, Kloian said.
The CERT program was started by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985 and was picked up by FEMA, which then custom designed various programs depending upon the type of emergencies that were to likely happen in various parts of the country, Kloian said.
“The role of the CERT graduate in an emergency is to assist their neighbor by filling the gap during crucial time before first responders can arrive,” said Kloian. “The first responders will be busy wherever the most people have the greatest need for aid.”
Each CERT class is customized for the area’s likely emergencies, and Sparta CERT graduates will assist the police chief’s needs including re-directing traffic from fallen trees that are blocking roads, Kloian said.
Residents could be directed by CERT graduates to pre-determined buildings in Sparta with uninterrupted power source and climate control from generators, Kloian said.
“These go-to centers are currently the library, town hall, Lake Mohawk Country Club, and the Church of Nazarene; although more will be added later,” Kloian said.
One of the graduates was Frederika “Rickey” Link, who happened to be the senior citizen that received the 2014 Outstanding Older American Award.
Link was selected for the award for her substantial record in volunteering including serving the hungry at the Manor House, working as an ambassador at the Town Hall, volunteering her time at the First Presbyterian Church, and working six years at the Sparta elementary school caféteria.
Link said some of the skills she learned during class were firefighting, digging victims out of rubble, search and rescue, triage and evacuation techniques.
“I want to be able to help my neighbors and answer questions from residents during an emergency, and also be an asset to the community,” Link said.
Township Manager William Close said two trailers were donated to the township to be used by individuals responding to an emergency. Radios are also being made available for the additional manpower now available to the town through the CERT program, he said.
Close ended the graduation ceremony by acknowledging Quinn’s contribution.
“It is her energy and enthusiasm for this program that has been a driving force. I want to commend her for all of her efforts as she has put in a tremendous amount of time behind the scenes,” Close said.
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