Last evening, I attended a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) "Meet & Greet" that was hosted by the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management.
First, a little background .... Middlesex County is the second largest county, population-wise in New Jersey. Only Bergen County has a larger population. We are one of the most densely populated counties in New Jersey with a density of 2,621.6 people per square mile (as of 2010). There are several major thoroughfares that pass through Middlesex County, including the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95), the Garden State Parkway, I-287, as well as US Route 1, US Route 9 and US Route 130 - just to name a few. In addition, there are numerous miles of railway (both freight and passenger) that run through the County. All this to give you an idea of how busy it is around here.
Last night's meeting was designed to bring the various municipal CERT Coordinators and their teams together, to meet each other as well as to be informed about goings on at the County and State levels. And what was so good to hear is that both the State of New Jersey and Middlesex County are dedicated to the CERT program - funding it, training it, deploying it, making use if it.
The State and County are not only dedicated to fully utilizing CERT, but are also dedicated towards enlarging and improving the existing CART team (Community Animal Rescue Team), which is like CERT, but for animals. Many times during a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy, residents are forced to leave their homes for temporary shelters. Unfortunately, only service animals are allowed in the shelters. Middlesex County has a team that will temporarily shelter house pets for the duration of an event like this. The one that was activated during Sandy was in operation for three weeks.
In addition to hearing about what already exists, we were made aware of some plans for the future. One part of the plan is increased training and drills, which will commence in 2016. And on the Amateur Radio side (which of course, is of great interest to me), John Garmendi N2DV, the RACES/ARES Bureau Chief for the County, gave a talk about how Amateur Radio fits into the scheme of things as far as CERT, the County and the State are concerned.
A show of hands indicated that many of our municipal CERT Team members are already licensed Hams. Another show of hands indicated that quite a few of the unlicensed CERT members are very interested in earning their tickets. I raised my hand and volunteered the fact that Marv K2VHW and I, under the auspices of SPARC, will most likely be holding another licensing class in the Spring. It's our hope, that if we can secure a centrally located facility, that maybe we can fit the bill for these people. A class of about 30 or so CERT members becoming licensed Hams would be truly awesome, indeed.
It is certainly an exciting and interesting time to be a CERT member in South Plainfield and Middlesex County. I am eagerly looking forward to the days ahead, and am dedicated to assisting the effort in any way that I can.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!