Volunteers wanted for emergency team

Everyday citizens can train and become a part of the new Community Emergency Response Team.

By: Jessica Beym
   The heroes in Cranbury who work to protect and save lives are usually seen driving a police squad car, hanging off the back of a firetruck or whizzing by in an ambulance.
   But soon, Cranbury residents won’t need a uniform or a badge if they want to lend a hand during an emergency.
   The Cranbury Township Police Department is looking for everyday citizens who want to train and become a part of a new Community Emergency Response Team. The group, with the right training, would be able to aid and assist the community during an emergency.
   The Office of Emergency Management in Cranbury, in cooperation with the Police Department, Cranbury Fire Department and Cranbury First Aid Squad, is offering free training to members of the group.
   "We’ll teach disaster preparedness, how to prepare you and your family in the event of a large-scale disaster, where normal services would be outsourced," said Cranbury Patrol Officer Paul Lindenfeld, who will be teaching the course.
   CERT participants must be at least 18 years old and will be required to undergo 20 hours of instruction over an eight-week period. Trained firefighters, emergency medical personnel and law enforcement professionals from around the community will teach the classes.
   Volunteers CERT will receive basic training in first aid, family disaster preparedness, disaster fire suppression, medical operations, disaster mental health and basic emergency management.
   CERT is a national program that was encouraged by President George Bush after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. According to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management Web site, President Bush created the Citizen Corps Program to organize volunteer services in the areas of crime, natural disasters and terrorism. The CERT program is a part of the Citizens Corps.
   "If there’s another large scale attack in New York City and mass transport is shut down, you’ll have a lot of parents that aren’t able to get home to Cranbury," Officer Lindenfield said. "And that could leave us with a lot of school aged kids with no where to go. In that case we could activate a CERT team and have a plan on how to deal with it.
   "Everyone thinks this is little ‘Crandoodilyville’ and ‘What’s going to happen in Cranbury?’ but there’s always that possibility that something like that could happen," he said.
   Officer Lindenfeld said that because of the industrial and commercial warehouses in Cranbury and the town’s proximity to the N.J. Turnpike, there also is a risk of a hazardous materials accident. In this case, the emergency team would also be able to help.
   Once a team is established, the volunteers will be certified CERT members and there will be a contact system set up to activate the team in the event of an emergency.
   "It’s a federal certification but it certainly doesn’t take the place of firefighters or EMTs," said Officer Lindenfeld. "However, it will provide them with basic skills necessary to be able to cope with a situation where fire, EMS or police may need assistance, or may not be immediately available."
   Officer Lindenfeld said that anyone over 18 years old is encouraged to take the course, especially those who would be available during weekdays. Officer Lindenfeld said there are many ways to volunteer and there is no requirement to be physically fit.
   Training sessions will take place at the Cranbury Police Station on Logan Drive in March. To sign up, call the Cranbury Police Department at (609) 395-0031 and leave a name, telephone number and the daytime hours that you would be available to take a course. For more information visit www.state.nj.us/njoem or www.fema.gov.