NAUGATUCK — The next time a hurricane, flood or blizzard strikes, the borough can turn to 19 more volunteers who are ready, willing and trained to lend a helping hand.
The newest members of Naugatuck’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) graduated Monday night during a ceremony in Town Hall.
“We have a good cross-section of dedicated people in here,” said Francis Dambowsky, the borough’s emergency management director, who coordinates CERT. “And, we have people who I believe are sincerely interested in helping the community.”
CERT is a volunteer organization comprised of citizens 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.
The program was first established in Naugatuck in 2005. At the time, Dambowsky said, the group had 25 members.
Over the years the group’s numbers dwindled and this spring Dambowsky put out a call for volunteers to join. With the 19 new graduates, the group now has 26 trained volunteers, Dambowsky said.
“I’m just happy that we got a great group of people that are willing to give up their time to help the town,” Dambowsky said.
The team members completed seven, three-hour training sessions that covered such topics as disaster preparedness, fire safety, medical operations, light search and rescue, team organization, disaster psychology and terrorism.
On Monday night, each graduate received a certificate from the state, an identification badge and a backpack full of safety equipment, including an emergency blanket, a first aid kit and an emergency tool that can be used to turn off utilities or pry open a door.
Among CERT’s newest members is 54-year-old Robert Smith. Smith said he volunteered in town when his children were young and in school. After hearing about CERT through his wife, he decided the program was a great way to once again help his community.
“I just thought it was something I really wanted to do,” Smith said.
Smith said the training the group received was excellent and he’s looking forward to continuing the training.
“I want to help,” he added.
Standing before the CERT members, Mayor Robert Mezzo said the scary part of emergency management is that no one knows the nature of the next emergency.
However, Mezzo continued, the borough has a phenomenally trained, caring emergency management team to respond to emergencies that now includes the 19 new CERT members.
“I’m very confident that whatever that next time is, that we’re going to be stronger because of you,” Mezzo said.