Last summer when Tropical Storm Irene hit Hamden and the rest of the area, some residents languished for days with no power, which meant no food, no showers and no bathroom facilities.
It was then that the town got a front-row seat as to how valuable its volunteer emergency professional team is to the community, said the town's Emergency Management Deputy Director Bob Freeman. Citizen's Emergency Management Team members manned emergency shelters and gave out food for days after the Aug. 28 storm.
On Thursday, that team gained 17 new members when they graduated from the CERT training program during ceremonies at Hamden Middle School.
The new members spent the last seven Thursday nights learning safety techniques including search and rescue, first aid and terrorism awareness.
"The next time you get on a train to New York I'm sure you are going to screen the individuals on it more than you ever have," Freeman joked with the graduates. In addition to his duties with the town, Freeman also is the CERT team director.
"Proud to have you."
Chief Administrative Officer Curt Leng, who attended the graduation representing Mayor Scott Jackson, said he got an especially close up view of how the team works during last summer's storm aftermath.
"It gave me a much deeper appreciation for what you do," Leng told them. CERT members are willing to help their neighbors at a moment's notice, he said, and he was happy to welcome the new additions to the team.
"Hamden thanks you, Hamden is grateful for you and Hamden is proud to have you," he told them.
"We really do appreciate all the time you have put into training and getting involved with the community," state Regional Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Kenny told the new members. No town in the state could handle the events of last summer without the help of an organization like CERT, he said. And as bad as it was, it could have been worse, and the need for help even greater, he said.
CERT "Key players"
"It was a tropical storm when it hit, and it could have been much worse," he said. As it was, the storm destroyed 2 percent of the town's trees, he said, but had it been a category 3 hurricane as predicted, that number could have gone as high as 80 percent, which would have left much of the town in the dark as the trees took down power lines.
"You are key players to sustain operations as teams are brought in from other parts of the country," he said. "All incidents begin local, and all incidents end local."
But it's not only natural disasters that bring out the need for CERT services. When firefighters are fighting a fire, they're always happy to see CERT members on the scene, often with liquid relief.
"Even just water and coffee -- we really appreciate that," said Deputy Fire Chief Bob Surprise. "We truly appreciate all the time you guys put in."
"When the police and fire departments are stressed beyond their capabilities, that's when CERT gets called in to fill in the gaps," Freeman said.
The following people graduated from CERT training Thursday:
- John Belleau
- Amy M. Connors
- Jason Delberg
- Ralph Fink
- Kim Funaro
- Cherni Gillman
- Scott Howland
- Dave G. Johnson
- Millie C. Legenhausen
- Joe Mason
- Harvey S. Massey
- Clydette Messiah
- Katherine E. Metzger
- Karen Schmidt
- Margaret Rose Zabeline
- Chelsea Zittel
- Judie Zundell