Westchester Volunteers Learn Disaster Skills

VALHALLA, N.Y. – Nearly 100 Westchester County residents learned several basic post-disaster skills Sunday at the second annual emergency preparedness program, including how to suppress a fire, turn off a gas line and set up a triage.

“There’s a lot of different things that we need to be aware of and do our best to be prepared for as a community,” said Westchester County Office of Emergency Management Director Jennifer Wacha of a terrorist strike or natural disaster. “This is one of the critical pieces. They really demonstrate how important it is to be prepared.”

The 90 volunteers at the Westchester County Fire Training Center event consisted of Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members from White Plains, Greenburgh, Mount Vernon, Bedford and New York City. CERT members are the second line on a community level behind policemen, firemen and EMTs to help after a disaster. They were broken up into several teams and went to five different stations learning and for some, refreshing, important skills.

“Unfortunately, the way the world is today, you’ve got to be ready for anything,” said Al Naclerio, a CERT member at the White Plains Volunteer Fire Department for 26 years. “If the situation arises that requires our services, you want to have the background, knowledge and training. We’re here to do it and we’re prepared to do it.”

The CERT members, who are certified after hours of basic and advanced testing, are seen as an essential component of the disaster relief effort because of the help they provide to policemen, firemen and EMTs, said Wacha.

They learned how to conduct search and rescue missions (in stable buildings), put out fires, set up a triage unit to determine who needs care the most, turn off utilities and help rescue pets.

“When you’re talking a major disaster, they can really become a critical component of our resiliency – our ability to kind of bounce back from a really major, major event,” said Wacha. 

Greenburgh CERT Capt. Richard Edelson, who took part in the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. event with 20 of his fellow volunteers, said it was an important event for the county.

“It’s important to the county because it gives all of the volunteer responders a chance to work together,” he said. “If there was a real life incident and they needed all of us, we would be showing up and we would be doing what we’re doing now, except it wouldn’t be play. If we weren’t playing now, we wouldn’t be good if it was a real life incident.”

The event was sponsored by the Department of Emergency Services and the Westchester Citizens Corps Coalition.

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