500+ State Workers Graduate CERT Training
Ceremony at State Police Headquarters
West Trenton, N.J. - An army of state workers graduated
from emergency response training and received their tools
of the trade during a ceremony held at State Police headquarters
Friday morning. The gathering included approximately 300 of
more than 500 employees from various state departments who
volunteered to undergo a 20-hour, eight-week course to prepare
them to be first responders to emergencies in state agency
Attorney General Peter Harvey congratulated the graduates on their desire to help others during times of emergencies. "It is a selfless, heroic spirit that motivated these state workers to become CERT volunteers," said General Harvey. "Their service will enhance safety in state facilities during times of emergencies."
Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, lauded volunteers' dedication. "As troopers, we know what it's like to put ourselves in harms way to serve and protect others," said Fuentes. "I commend the bravery of these volunteers who have committed themselves to help during an emergency rather than run to safety."
The state employees initiative began as a part of "Make a Difference Day NJ 2003." The in-depth training was offered to all state employees to support Governor McGreevey's Homeland Security efforts. The response was incredible, with more than 500 employees trained and another 250 signed up for the next phase of classes. These citizen responders will now be an integral part of the state's answer to disasters, both natural and man-made.
Employees from 12 state agencies participated in this Phase of training. The state Department of Environmental Protection boasted the highest number of volunteers, with 129 graduates. Other state departments included Corrections, Community Affairs, Banking and Insurance, Agriculture, Education and Personnel. Members of the Governor's Office, the Board of Public Utilities, NJ School Construction Corporation, State Commission of Investigation and Office of Information Technology also graduated from CERT training.
David Hagy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, presented the Citizen Corps Outstanding Leadership Award from Secretary Tom Ridge to Major Ed O'Neil, Chairman of the State Citizen Corps Council. The commendation recognized New Jersey's leadership as the first state to establish councils in every county and having the highest number of councils at 133. Hagy also presented a letter of commendation addressed to Governor McGreevey from President Bush noting the state's Citizen Corps leadership role.
The State Police presented each team/department captain with a large bag of emergency medical supplies and every graduate was given a basic emergency kit including an identification vest, a hard hat, safety goggles, dust mask, work gloves, a special multi-use tool and a carrying bag.
Volunteers received their training at a number of different sites throughout the state. They have been schooled in disaster preparedness, fire suppression, disaster medical operations (triage), search and rescue, disaster psychology, terrorism and team organization. Most state workers completed their training with a disaster simulation exercise at the Dempster Fire Academy in Mercer County. There they conducted medical operations, put out fires and practiced cribbing (reinforcing unsteady structures).
The Citizen Corps Program was originally established by President George Bush to give direction to the spirit of American volunteerism after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Governor James E. McGreevey created the New Jersey State Citizen Corps Council in 2003 to coordinate the activities of the Citizen Corps Program in our state. He appointed Captain Ed O'Neil of the State Police Emergency Management Section to chair the council. Also in 2003, SFC Joe Geleta was named as the CERT Coordinator for the New Jersey State Police. Ewing Township started the state's first CERT in 1998, which was modeled after CERTs created in Los Angeles in 1985.
The state's capacity to train CERT volunteers is being rapidly increased through the addition of 475 instructors who have passed an intensive "Train the Trainer" courses. Each of these new teachers will pass on their knowledge by developing trained teams in their neighborhoods.
Two teams of CERT volunteers have been recently used in rescue operations in the flood ravaged areas of Burlington County. Four teams were just used in the tragic search for a missing 16 year old girl from Brick Township. Volunteers may be called on to aid in the search for lost or kidnapped children, help staff emergency operations centers, guide and direct spontaneous volunteers during major events and assist the Red Cross and other relief organizations with mass care. Volunteers for CERT must be 18 years of age and possess a valid driver's license. Interested persons should call (609)882-2000, extension 6614 to speak with the State Police CERT coordinator.
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