N. Branford plans emergency team

Published: Monday, February 9, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

NORTH BRANFORD — Town officials are moving ahead with plans for a new Community Emergency Response Team that would act as a first-response group for natural or man-made disasters.

The Town Council recently endorsed the program following a presentation by Fire Chief William Seward III.

Seward said Friday that he was still in the application process for the program, which would receive federal funding if approved. The Town Council endorsement is necessary for the application, he said.

CERT is a program through the federal Department of Homeland Security that trains local residents to respond to emergencies and provide assistance in their towns. Seward said that many Connecticut communities, including Branford, Orange and Hamden, have already established the teams.

“The objective of a CERT team is to support emergency responders like fire, police and EMS during large-scale incidents (and) to be able to provide assistance to their neighbors before emergency responders arrive,” Seward said.

Two of the main functions of the team would be to assist at emergency shelters and “points of distribution” where members would hand out supplies, Seward added.

“In small communities there’s not enough (emergency response) people to do that,” he said. “Our assets are limited and in a large-scale incident they would be dedicated to priority work.”

The team members could also help with crowd control at events like the annual Potato and Corn Festival.

The CERT group would be made up of volunteers. Seward said he is hoping for at least 25 people to fill the first class.

The funding provides $65 per participant and additional money for training twice a year. The federal dollars are administered by the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

The CERT system began in the Los Angeles Fire Department in the 1980s and expanded nationwide, coming under the purview of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and later the Department of Homeland Security. The North Branford Fire Department would administer the town’s program if it receives approval.

Town Manager Richard Branigan said the Town Council unanimously endorsed the concept at a recent meeting. Seward said he expects the application process will take another six weeks to two months, at which point he hopes to begin recruiting volunteers.

“The individuals who participate in the program undergo about 40 hours of training,” he said. “When they complete the program, they become sworn members of a local civil preparedness force under Connecticut general statutes.”

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