Beacon Falls seeks volunteers for emergency response team

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Beacon Falls is seeking volunteers to fill out a Community Emergency Response Team. The eight-week training program will begin Wednesday at Beacon Hose Co. No. 1. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — Town and public safety officials are calling on residents to join a team that would respond to emergencies or disasters when needed.

First Selectman Gerard Smith and police Lt. Edgar Rodriguez, who is also the town’s public safety director, said they are seeking volunteers for a free, state-funded program called the Citizen Corps CERT, or Community Emergency Response Team.

At no cost, residents can receive training in basic medical aid, fire safety, search and rescue, and sheltering.

The program is open to anyone age 18 and over. Classes start Feb. 29, and run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. for eight Wednesdays at the firehouse, with graduation in April.

Smith said as of last week the town has 11 seats open on a 25-member team.

Last year when Hurricane Irene hit, police and fire personnel weathered the tropical storm well, with no shortage of help, he said.

When the October snowstorm hit, operations were the same, but fire and police were so affected personally by the event that having a team like this would have helped, Smith said.

“It complements our police, fire and emergency departments,” Smith said.

Scott DeVico, a spokesman for the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said there have been more than 4,000 citizens trained for CERT teams across the state.

“Citizen involvement in emergency management is key to our success,” DeVico said. “CERT teams have been a tremendous asset during this past year’s severe weather.”

Prospect has three CERT graduating classes, which makes for nearly 40 trained members, Mayor Robert Chatfield said.

The volunteers were invaluable during the October snowstorm, with help at the shelter at the firehouse and the charging station at Town Hall, he said.

To sign up for the Beacon Falls team, call Karen Wilson, administrative assistant and Town Hall office manager, at (203) 729-4340, or e-mail her at kwilson@townofbeaconfalls.com.