Woodbridge Emergency Management
Community Emergency Response Team

One Main Street                         Woodbridge, New Jersey 07095                            732-602-7377
Educating our residents and protecting our community

Recognition from the Community Tribune
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The following article was published in the Community Tribune:


From the Thursday, 20 November 2008 Community Tribune Local News, page A7

 If disaster strikes, Woodbridge CERT members are at the ready
By Caitlin Mahon
Editorial Intern             

WOODBRIDGE ?In the event of a natural disaster or emergency, Woodbridge residents can rest assured that community members trained in first-aid techniques will be the first to respond while the township waits for further aid from the county, state and federal government.

“In a really big disaster, like a Katrina-type situation, local ?meaning county ? help would probably not get to Woodbridge for at least 72 hours; state would probably be another 72 hours, and federal ?who knows ?depends on how bad the situation is? said Joe Formola, Woodbridge Community Emergency Response Team administrative office.  “So if we can have people who are trained in basic first aid, basic firefighting and basic search and rescue, we can help our fellow citizens until the (federal and county) help shows up.?/span>

As a program of the Woodbridge Office of Emergency Management developed in September 2005 by retired CERT member Frank Sutphen and the late Mayor Frank Pelzman, CERT has 32 active members, mainly Woodbridge residents, who assist with the township’s emergency needs, said Lowell Aube, CERT’s team leader.

?Mayor John E. McCormac) likes to call us the Mayor’s Marines? said Aube, a part-time employee of the Office of Emergency Management.  “He says when he needs us, he calls us, and we’re there no matter what it is.  They use us for all of our community events.  We are used for traffic control, and we’re used to man the emergency operations center when it’s open during a storm or an event.?/span>

McCormac said that while he values the team’s services, he said he has a complaint about one area of the team; the dearth of volunteers.

“We helped them with recruiting, and they’ve been trying to get members, and we’re hopeful that they do.  If anyone wants to volunteer, thay can contact the Mayor’s office.?/span>

CERT members have professional commitments elsewhere, but they strive to aid the township as often as possible, said Formola, a 61-year-old application programmer for the Hartford Life Private Placement Company in Florham Park.

“We’re on call 24 hours a day,?he said “We never know when it’s going to be needed.  The thing is, if you’re available, you show up.  There are no minimum hours like when you’re a volunteer fireman or police auxiliary.  If you’re available, we’ll use you and if not, we’ll catch you next time.?/span>

When CERT is needed, Formola said, members are contacted by phone, e-mail and text messaging.

“We all receive a ‘go bag?when we graduate from training ?a helmet, goggles, gloves, a whistle, a flashlight, a universal tool that allows you to turn off water and gas settings, and we add to that as we see fit.?/span>

Woodbridge residents at least 18 years of age with a valid driver’s license can apply to be a CERT member, Formola said.

“We try to get a least 10 people before we start a training class,?Formola said.  “The last class graduated on June 29 of this year.  Once we get 10 people who say they’re interested, we’ll hold a class.?/span>

Aube said volunteers participate in 20 hours of training in three units. “Disaster preparedness, Fire Safety, Disaster Medical Operations ?Parts 1 and 2; Search and Rescue Operations, CERT Organization (are Part 3).  We do disaster psychology, and we even touch on terrorism and how CERT would relate to terrorism depending on your township and state,?Aube said.  “Then they do a practical exercise, and they become certified in CERT.?/span>

Although the Woodbridge CERT program was assembled in 2005, the program is 20 years old and was developed by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1985.  That program was aimed at training citizens on how to take care of themselves in the outlying areas of the city, Formola said.

Following 9/11 and President Bush’s 2002 call for American citizens to volunteer their services to safeguard the country, CERT became a national program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in conjunction with the Los Angeles Fire Department.

?FEMA) adopted it, they modified it and made it a nationwide program, and then each state set it up however they wanted ?by municipality, by county, by state,?Formola said.  “Hawaii has one team: Delaware has one team for the entire state.?/span>

Formola said New Jersey has 400 CERT unites ?the highest number of any state.

“Texas is the closest competitor we have ?they have a little over 240 teams, but New Jersey seems to have the most volunteer-minded people.  And the federal government looks to New Jersey as the golden rule as to how to do it.?/span>

Woodbridge residents interested in becoming CERT members can apply online at http://www.WoodbridgeCERT.org.

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