Fire chief seeks volunteers for emergency response team

  • Athol Fire Chief Joseph Guarnera invites members of the community to join a Community Emergency Response Team. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 9/21/2021 1:32:48 PM
Modified: 9/21/2021 1:32:49 PM

ATHOL — The Athol Fire Department is looking for residents motivated to assist in the wake of any variety of emergency to which the department and other first responders may have to respond. Coordinator of the recruitment effort is Firefighter/EMT Andrew Bond.

“The CERT team is a Community Emergency Response Team,” said Bond. “They were created after 9/11, basically with the idea of recruiting people in the community who have no training or any emergency background to be trained to assist the community in the event of a large-scale disaster, emergency, pandemic like we have now to, in general, supplement the fire department and other agencies.

“For instance, other CERT teams have been assisting with vaccine clinics, they’ve been staffing clinics and providing volunteers to help with the clinics. They’ve been getting out into the community and helping people to get to appointments and things like that.”

Bond said weather events also sometimes require help from community members.

“In the wintertime, they can staff warming shelters, and also cooling centers in the summer.”

He said citizen volunteers would not be expected to put their safety at risk but could still help in the search of damaged structures.

“If we had a tornado come through, for instance,” he said, “we could deploy them in areas to assist with searching houses, depending on the situation. Every team is different.”

Bond said anyone over the age of 18 is free to volunteer. There are no physical requirements.

“We will provide training,” he said, “and hold classes and give you everything that you need.

“Training consists of approximately 20 hours of classes in which we cover a bunch of different topics. We cover topics anywhere from response to terrorism, to basic first aid, fire response, and basic search and rescue. It covers a wide variety of topics.”

Asked if CPR certification would be provided, Bond said, “You would not be CPR-certified. However, we do have the option to bring in instructors later on for those interested in being certified. Basically, you’ll get a review of first aid and then as we continue, we’ll bring in instructors, but CPR is not part of the curriculum. We’ll add it on with other trainings.”

Training will take place either at the Uptown Fire Station or a location to be determined later, according to Bond.

“That will be based on the number of people who sign up to participate.”

Bond said participation is not limited to Athol residents.

“Anyone from the area — Royalston, Orange, Gardner — anyone from the area is free to sign up,” he said.

Bond added that training is an ongoing process.

“We’ll be having monthly meetings,” he said. “We’ll have at least one meeting a month covering different topics and training. It’s on a purely volunteer basis. We’re not expecting you to commit to giving us a year or two years or whatever. But we do you expect you to be there for our monthly meetings.

“But it’s a purely volunteer thing. If we get a call and we need you, we’ll send out a text or some other notification. If you can show up, you show up, and if you can’t, you don’t.”

Means of notification, said Bond, will be established by Chief Joseph Guarnera.

“He’s the one in overall charge of the program. So, it will be based on what he’d like to do and how it will work.”

This will not be Athol’s first team, according to Bond.

“Athol has had a team,” he explained. “We had a team back in the early two-thousands. It was suspended, I believe, around 2010. But the chief thinks it’s important enough to start it back up again.”

Anyone interested in assisting the fire department — and, by extension, the community — as a member of the CERT team should show up for a recruitment meeting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2 at the Uptown Fire Station.

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