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They Have Their Greenwich Neighbors' Backs

Forty-seven Greenwich residents have stepped up to the plate and completed training to become the town's first Community Emergency Response Team.

The first Community Emergency Response Team in Greenwich at police headquarters March 5, 2014. Photo credit: Barbara Heins.
The first Community Emergency Response Team in Greenwich at police headquarters March 5, 2014. Photo credit: Barbara Heins.

The chatter and laughter emanating from the third-floor training room of Greenwich Police headquarters belied the seriousness of the reason why the group of 47 have spent about 30 hours together for the last couple months.

On Wednesday night, the 47 Greenwich residents completed training to become members of the town's first Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). They had just completed their final exam and were issued their CERT equipment — backpacks filled with hardhats, reflective vests, first aid kits, flashlights, duct tape, and various tools to be used to shut off water and gas valves. Receiving their equipment was the prelude to their being sworn in as state-certified CERT volunteers by Emergency Management Director Dan Warzoha.

"This is truly a town-wide, effort ... a town asset and resource," said Capt. Robert Berry who helped plan the program with Warzoha, Police Chief James Heavey, the Greenwich Fire Department and the Greenwich Emergency Medical Services.

There were many lessons learned in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, Berry said.

"We were inundated with calls at the EOC (Emergency Operations Center. There were issues at the animal shelter then sheltering for residents at the Western Greenwich Civic Center and Eastern Middle School," Berry said.

The CERT volunteers will be meeting in coming weeks with their training officers — Sgt. Eric Scorca and Community Impact Officer Dan Palladino — for more training and to select which facilities they will prefer to work in should there be another natural catastrophe.

Backcountry resident Tom Kazazes said the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy spurred him to join the team. "After I saw the impact it had on the town, I said OK, this something I need to know about. We have the best of police, fire and GEMS in Greenwich but Sandy tied up a lot of personnel," Kazazes explained.

Greenwich High School freshman football coach Michael Fina said he wants to be help neighbors in a time of need. "I'm in a position to know people around town. I want to be in a position to be helpful in the community," said Fina who completed the course with his girlfriend Megan Murphy. He added, "I feel they did a good job preparing us to realistically expect what we would encounter."

There were many familiar faces among the class including former Board of Estimate and Taxation member Sam Romeo and his wife Mary, former Board of Education member Natalie Queen, the Rev. Thomas Nins and Representative Town Meeting member John Lucarelli.

Berry told the group, "You're going to be there to help your neighbors with this little bit of equipment and knowledge." He added, "There's a saying — the triumph of evil is good people who do nothing."

The team, whose training curriculum was developed by the federal agency FEMA, can only perform their duties once the town requests and receives permission from the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. All of the team members also received training and certification in first aid and CPR. 

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