A 2017 Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) graduate class. Volunteers are trained to help in emergency situations. Andover Township has recently announced it is starting up a CERT team. (Photo provided).
By Laurie Gordon ANDOVER - On Feb. 8, 2019, the Andover Township Police Department announced the debut of a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Police issued a statement to let residents know that “after consultation with Mayor Dolores Blackburn and Administrator Diana Francisco, it was decided to move forward with implementing the CERT program." Chief Eric Danielson, the OEM Coordinator for Andover Township. is at the helm, and Linda Grinthal, who currently is a CERT volunteer for Sparta, will lead Andover's startup. She's especially excited because the reason she'd volunteered for Sparta was because Andover didn't yet have a team in place, yet. “We are just now recruiting new members to the [Andover Township] team,” she said. “I plan on assembling a core group of about 25 people, training them by June, and getting official monthly meetings started in September, if not a bit sooner.” Interested Andover Township residents are encouraged to take the 21-hour Disaster Preparedness Class for team members. The CERT program trains volunteers to respond to emergency situations in their own community. CERT volunteers can give critical support to first responders, provide immediate assistance to victims, and organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site. CERT members can also help with non-emergency projects that help improve the safety of the community. CERT has almost 2,000 teams nationwide. Locally, there's a Sussex County CERT, as well a CERT in Sparta, Hopatcong, Green Township and Stillwater. Andover's new CERT team may consist of one person, Linda Grinthal, right now, but the team will grow quickly as soon as word gets out that Andover Township is looking for volunteers. “I got started in CERT because I want to be sure I am one of the people who is prepared for emergencies, and can help myself, my family, neighbors and community,” Grinthal said. “I don't want to be one of those people who panics. CERT has given me a sense of confidence that I will at least know the basics of what to do in a disaster or emergency. And I like that I can take decisive action and not be running in circles frantically.” CERT members can help oversee warming and cooling stations in town, help locate lost children, and are also trained for the more urgent disaster response where triage may be needed. Volunteers must complete an application form and have a background check. Upon graduation they receive a backpack with supplies to get them started, and recognition from the Township Committee. Grinthal is a big believer in Ben Franklin's adage, “He who fails to prepare, is preparing to fail, " and that's what CERT is all about. To become involved in the new Andover Cert, call or text Grinthal, for the application at 973-579-7382. There is no charge for this FEMA program.