PROSPECT — The Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, program isn’t a new initiative, but the 19 volunteers that completed their training last week at the Prospect firehouse broke new ground locally.
The volunteers — seven from Beacon Falls and 12 from Prospect — represented the first step in regionalizing the CERT program in Beacon Falls and Prospect, and possibly other surrounding towns.
“Beacon Falls can augment Prospect, and Prospect can augment Beacon Falls,” said Bill McCasland, a Beacon Falls resident and a CERT trainer.
CERT, a federally-funded program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is designed to educate volunteers in disaster preparedness and provides training in basic disaster response skills.
CERT members use their training to help themselves and others as well as assisting first responders when deployed by local emergency management officials. CERT members can also assist municipalities in a variety of ways, like directing traffic during events.
McCasland said the concept is really to train people to help their families and neighbors and be ready when called upon by officials.
“We’re not trying to be anything more than what it is,” he said.
“The biggest thing is three-quarters of all first responders are volunteers, so that’s where we come in,” added Liz Normand, a Prospect resident and a CERT trainer.
The idea to regionalize the CERT program between Beacon Falls and Prospect came about earlier this year.
Prospect has had an active CERT program since 2008, Normand said.
In Beacon Falls, McCasland said, a CERT program was started about six years ago but it’s kind of fallen by the wayside. After becoming a CERT trainer to try and resurrect the program in town, McCasland reached out to Normand about working together.
“Liz is pretty active up here in Prospect,” said McCasland, adding that regionalizing allows for CERT members in Beacon Falls to go through additional training courses offered in Prospect.
With the most recent training session complete, Normand said it brings the number of active members in the two towns to about 50.
“That’s what we’re really excited about,” she said.
For Sean Skehan, an 18-year-old Beacon Falls resident and the youngest person to go through the most recent class, CERT is a good first step on the path to where he sees himself in the future.
“It’s a good starter to helping people,” said Skehan, a Woodland Regional High School senior who plans to attend Naugatuck Valley Community College in the fall and study criminal justice.
Skehan decided to take the course after seeing a post about the training on Facebook. He got everything he wanted out of the course and more, and encouraged people to take the training, especially those who want to go into a career field to help others.
“It was a little more than what I was expecting,” he said. “I was expecting text books and all this, and it was just one binder and visuals and all this cool stuff that we learned about.”