EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

July 5, 2014

Emergency response teams prepare for the worst

Emergency Response Teams prepare for storm season

With tropical storms making their presence known, emergency response teams in the area are ready to help.

Community Emergency Response Teams are part of a federal program to educate people about disaster preparedness. CERT teams train residents in response skills like fire safety, search and rescue, and first aid.

“CERT was first developed by a fire chief in the (Los Angeles) area and the reason was citizens could go up to 72 hours without help in a major disaster,” Pelham CERT director Richard Hanegan said. “After 9/11 happened, they started looking at ideas in the country about how to better prepare citizens.”

CERT members are taught CPR, how to extinguish fires, response to hazardous materials incidents, and search-and-rescue techniques, according to Hanegan.

“We’re always here and we train as prescribed by Londonderry Fire and the Londonderry Police Department to assist them if they need,” said Rich Semanski, president of A Londonderry Emergency Response Team.

ALERT, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary next month, assists Londonderry police and fire departments in events that require traffic control. The group also reaches out to elementary schools to teach wilderness safety.

“It’s an important function in town,” Semaski said. “We promote safety and safety awareness, especially during summer and winter storms.”

While the teams are locally based, they have been called out to different states to help.

Pelham CERT has responded to calls in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi in the past, in addition to more local calls, according to Hanegan.

“Around here, we don’t have them like in Oklahoma and California with the tornadoes and fires, fortunately,” Salem CERT coordinator Elliot Fair said.

Salem CERT does complete wellness checks on seniors and invalids during power outages, as well as presentations on responses to electrical storms and downed wires.

“I think that people have been educated their whole lives on how to be prepared,” Hanegan said. “It’s a pretty good program on how to protect your family or be a part of the team that can be deployed.”

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