NAUGATUCK — When the Salem Bridge collapsed three years ago, volunteers from the borough’s Community Emergency Response Team helped direct traffic while police, fire and ambulance crews rescued a critically injured man and got the scene under control.
If the group, known as CERT, had more members available, they could have kept track of which emergency responders had entered and left the area for the police and fire chiefs, said W. Francis Dambowsky, the borough’s emergency management director.
“It would have assisted us a great deal,” Dambowsky said.
Dambowsky is looking to recruit more citizens to the team, which has slowly lost members since its inception in 2005. The group had about 20 members at the start, but is now down to about eight after people moved away or had to devote their time to other commitments, Dambowsky said.
That trend might soon be reversed. Dambowsky said since he first put out a call for volunteers weeks ago, 36 people have asked for applications, including mental health and school workers and retired firefighters and police officers.
“It’s overwhelming,” Dambowsky said. “I can’t believe the response.”
Team members are trained to prepare for and respond to disasters. The mayor, police chief or fire chief can ask them to help first responders or victims or organize volunteers in an emergency situation, Dambowsky said.
During recent major storms, team members have registered residents seeking shelter at City Hill Middle School, Dambowsky said. They have also helped organize marchers and crowds at the borough’s Memorial Day parade and other events, Dambowsky said.
Aspiring members should email Dambowsky at email@example.com and write “CERT application” in the subject line. Applications are also available at the mayor’s office on the fourth floor of Town Hall, 229 Church St.
Members will be provided seven training sessions that last about three hours each, Dambowsky said. Topics include disaster preparedness, fire safety, medical operations, light search and rescue, team organization, disaster psychology and terrorism. Dambowsky also plans to bring in the American Red Cross for a session on emergency shelter operations and provide classes on traffic control and emergency animal sheltering.
“I’m trying to diversify the group so we could have something for everyone,” Dambowsky said.
Dambowsky encouraged residents to request an application even if they might not be able to respond to community emergencies.
“The most important aspect of this is, residents are being trained in what to do in a disaster to help themselves and help their neighbors,” Dambowsky said. “That’s primary.”
Dambowsky said he will schedule trainings based on the availability of the applicants.
Course materials and the emergency kit that trainees receive are paid for by the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, through grants received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.