Barkhamsted takes stock of its emergency volunteers

Barkhamsted's firefighters, pictured above, are an important part of the town's emergency response system. First Selectman Don Stein recently held an emergency management volunteer meeting to be sure residents are involved, to assist in town emergencies such as power outages.

BARKHAMSTED — Residents recently were invited to an organizational meeting of emergency management volunteers — people willing and able to help during any type of townwide crisis.

“It has been a couple of years since we got folks together to talk about how we can all best support our community in the event of an emergency situation, such as an extended power outage, major snow or icing, hurricane or other disaster,” said First Selectman Don Stein, adding that he sent the invitation in a group email to “those on the list.”

“The meeting was related to the fact that we haven’t kept our volunteer list up to date,” he said. “So we needed to touch base, update that list and see what initiatives people would like to be involved in.”

The roundtable forum was held Wednesday at the town garage. “We have a base of more than 30 volunteers after that meeting, and I think it was a pretty successful one,” Stein said.

Emergency management volunteers keep an eye on their neighborhoods and identify people who might need shelter or other assistance.

“It was a very interesting meeting — we talked a lot about how the process of an emergency works, and what we need to do to be better organized. We haven’t had any major outages in several years, and having a get-together like this to make sure we have enough people is always a good idea.”

Stein pointed to the town of Ridgefield, which experienced extended power outages last winter. “They had a terrible time. My biggest concern is for the elderly residents,” he said. “They might not be able to run a generator or a wood stove, or maybe they’re on oxygen; they can’t help themselves. So I want to be sure we can attend to them, take care of them if they need help.”

Barkhamsted has three fire departments: Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire Department, the Riverton Fire Department and the Barkhamsted Fire Department. Pleasant Valley’s chief, Jim Shanley, is the town’s emergency management director.

Fire departments are always looking for members, Stein said.

“Like everyone else, they’re struggling (to get members),” Stein said. “But they do membership drives and appeals.

“On March 14, we’re going to do a volunteer day, and bring all the nonprofit volunteer groups to our elementary school to introduce them to people and get them interested in volunteering. We’ll offer fun activities for people and give them a chance to learn what’s available.”

Stein would also like to establish a Community Emergency Response Team, which would educate volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area, and train them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations, according to www.ready.gov/cert.

CERT members receive training and hold pratice drills for a variety of emergency scenarios including haz-mat spills, fires, extreme weather situations and accidents. The CERT training is given by a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The CERT Basic Training manual features a revised Disaster Medical Operations section, an updated Terrorism and CERT section, and new hazard-specific sections.

“The CERT Basic Training includes research-validated guidance for CERT programs to teach members what to do before, during, and after the hazards their communities may face,” according to the website. “The materials in the training include: instructor guides; participant manuals; hazard annex slide decks” and online resources. CERT team leaders can take a “Train the Trainer” and management courses.

“It’s basically a soup-to-nuts group to deal with emergencies,” Stein said.

Anyone who is interested in being an emergency management volunteer can email Stein at dstein@barkhamsted.us or call 860-379-8285.

Connecticut Media Group