HOLDEN, Mass. — Whether it's tornadoes, hurricanes, or epidemics — every emergency the community faces, it faces together, and the volunteers on the Holden Community Emergency Response Team have been at the ready to do their part to help their neighbors when any kind of disaster strikes.
In the past year alone, the area has seen a tornado tear its way through neighboring towns, Hurricane Irene blow down trees and powerlines, and a freak October snowstorm cause massive outages throughout the region.
Yet whether residents know it or not, everyone has something they can contribute when such an event bears down on the community.
"There are things that they can do," said Rebecca Evanoff, director of the Holden CERT. "You can donate your time and get your house ready, and then bigger than that, check on your neighobors, such as if you have elderly neighbors."
But for those who want to know learn how they can do even more, CERT is inviting area residents to join them at the Holden Public Safety Building this Thursday evening for an information session on what the team does and how the team helps during emergencies.
"Volunteers are always needed to help respond to emergencies like tornadoes, hurricanes or epidemics, as well as for non-emergency needs," said Evanoff.
The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program, administered by FEMA's Community Preparedness Division, is a training program that prepares people to help themselves, their families and their neighbors in the event of a disaster in their community.
On an even bigger scope, the session will also show people how they can help when an emergency affects the region and potentially the state, as often "the immediate affected area is overwhelmed, so outside of the area is where the assets come in from," said Evanoff.
By having trained volunteers ready to support neighboring communities, this also helps relieve the people who are already exhausted and recovering from what they have just undergone.
"People have deployed several times for the tornado, I had one of my members join up with a Red Cross commodities distribution van, I went down twice for sheltering, once for animals, and we coordinated phone calls for Mass Response," recalled Evanoff.
Through courses and modules, citizens can learn about disaster preparedness and receive training in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, and disaster medical operations. The volunteers also provide critical support by giving immediate assistance to victims before emergency first responders arrive on scene.
Additionally, CERT volunteers support the community year-round by participating in community preparedness outreach activities and distributing materials on disaster preparedness and education.
Everyone is invited to the upcoming information session, whether they have an interest in learning how to prepare their own homes in case of an emergency, or would like to find out more about how they can volunteer.
The information session will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, Jan 12 at the Holden Public Safety Building Training Room.