FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2012
MAYOR BLOOMBERG, DEPUTY MAYOR HOLLOWAY, COMMISSIONER BRUNO, COMMISSIONER CASSANO PRESIDE OVER GRADUATION CEREMONY FOR MORE THAN 100 COMMUNITY EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM VOLUNTEERS
With New Graduates, City Now Has More Than 1,500 Active CERT Volunteers to Assisting in Emergency Preparedness and Response
CERT Members Played Important Roles During Hurricane Irene and Were Deployed to Haiti to Train Volunteers After the 2010 Earthquake
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway, Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno, and Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano today presided over a graduation ceremony for more than 100 new Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers. CERT teams support their local communities by assisting in emergency preparedness and response and educating their communities about emergency preparedness. The graduates recently completed an intensive, 10-week training program in disaster preparedness and basic emergency response skills. Deputy Mayor Holloway and Commissioner Bruno presented Kim Teixeira, a CERT Team Chief, with the second annual John D. Solomon NYC CERT Award for Exemplary Service in Emergency Preparedness Education. The award was introduced last year to honor the late John D. Solomon, a CERT member who labored tirelessly to involve his community in his preparedness efforts. The Mayor also was joined at the ceremony at the Federal Reserve by the City's Chief Service Officer Diahann Billings-Burford and NYPD Deputy Inspector Phylis S. Byrne.
"CERT volunteers are a tremendous asset to New York City, and today's graduates will undoubtedly continue to build on the program's strong history of keeping neighborhoods safe and prepared for emergencies," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Last summer during Hurricane Irene, CERT members were some of the unsung heroes of the City's response, assisting their neighbors in City shelters and helping organize their fellow volunteers at the City's Emergency Operations Center."
"Residents in every community are protected by the work of dedicated CERT volunteers like Kim Teixeira, who has led CERT efforts in Northwestern Queens," said Deputy Mayor Holloway. "The support of volunteers like Kim really make a difference in an emergency, when we need it most. Kim's selfless leadership and volunteerism embodies the legacy of John D. Solomon, a tireless advocate for community emergency preparedness who went above and beyond to give back to his community."
"We are extremely grateful to the graduating class and to all CERT volunteers for their commitment to service," said Commissioner Bruno. "Thanks to this dedicated group of individuals, a program that began with 106 members has blossomed into a network of 1,500 volunteers who devote their personal time to protect the safety of their neighbors."
"The Community Emergency Response Team is one of the reasons New York City is safer than it has ever been before," said Commissioner Cassano. "CERT volunteers take an active role in their community, receive training from first responders, and stand ready to assist their neighbors when the need arises."
"Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in Democracy. In an election, you vote once - when you volunteer, you vote for your community every day. CERT members are a valuable resource and we thank and congratulate them for their dedication and service," said NYPD Deputy Inspector Phylis Byrne, Commanding Officer of the Patrol Service Bureau's Auxiliary Police Section, which engages and trains members of the community to assist police in improving the lives of New Yorkers.
In 2011, Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Bruno introduced a new emergency preparedness award to honor the late John D. Solomon, a CERT member who made emergency preparedness his life's work. Solomon was an active member of his team on Manhattan's Upper East Side. He also maintained a preparedness blog, had begun work on a family preparedness book, and wrote several newspaper articles on the topic. Throughout his illness Solomon remained steadfast in his dedication to raise awareness of the need to prepare our families, neighbors, workplaces and communities for all hazards. The John D. Solomon NYC CERT Award for Exemplary Service in Emergency Preparedness Education is presented annually to a CERT member who embodies John's enthusiasm for volunteerism and purposeful engagement to make their communities better prepared for emergencies. Solomon's widow, Abby, joined Deputy Mayor Holloway and Commissioner Bruno in presenting this year's award to CERT Team Chief Kim Teixeira. His parents, Richard and Ann, and his brother, James, were also in attendance.
Kim Teixeira joined the CERT program in 2005 and currently leads a team of 25 volunteers in Queens. Since joining CERT, Teixeira has assisted in the City's response to a number of emergencies including the 2006 Long Island City blackout, and, this past summer, Hurricane Irene. In addition to assisting during emergencies, Teixeira has given dozens of Ready New York emergency preparedness presentations in her community, and hosted first responders and local leaders at team meetings to educate them about CERT. In 2009 she managed a large emergency preparedness fair at the Queens Center Mall during OEM's National Preparedness Month kick-off event. Later that year, Teixeira appeared in OEM's Ready New York video, explaining the importance of being prepared for emergencies.
CERT in New York City
The New York City CERT program started in 2003 with 106 volunteers. Today, the City has 57 CERT teams and more than 1,500 volunteers representing all five boroughs. New York City CERT volunteers participate in a 10-week training program in disaster preparedness and basic emergency response skills taught by active and retired members of the Police and Fire Departments. After completing training that includes lessons in fire safety, search and rescue, first aid and triage, CERTs support their local communities by assisting City agencies that prepare for and respond to emergencies. CERT volunteers also work to educate their communities about emergency preparedness through OEM's Ready New York campaign.
New York City CERT members have a demonstrated history of assisting the City with response and preparedness outreach. In 2011, CERT volunteers logged more than 24,000 hours of service. For example, last month, CERT volunteers assisted the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a test of a new wireless emergency alert system that will allow officials to send geographically targeted text messages to people in the vicinity of a serious emergency. In September, more than 350 CERT volunteers proved invaluable when Hurricane Irene forced the evacuation of more than 375,000 New Yorkers from coastal neighborhoods. In some cases CERT volunteers worked around the clock, often in leadership roles, assisting the more than 10,000 New Yorkers who evacuated to City hurricane shelters. Others helped organize and deploy volunteers at the City's Emergency Operations Center.
In addition to assisting first responders during emergencies, CERT volunteers play an important role in community events and emergency trainings and exercises. In 2011, CERT members were deployed to assist with the Five Boro Bike Tour where they directed traffic around designated rest areas. Last summer, they also worked at the Department of Transportation's Summer Streets program, assisting with traffic control and basic first aid. CERT volunteers also assisted organizers and players during the 2010 four-day National Wheelchair Softball Tournament, which earned them special recognition in the award for Best Special Event with the Department of Parks and Recreation that year. In 2010, CERT volunteers participated in a multi-agency exercise to test the City's emergency response to a simulated mass casualty incident.
New York City's CERT program was called to assist in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. President Clinton and former FEMA Director James Lee Witt recommended establishing a CERT program to the Haitian government and requested New York City CERT instructors to lead the first classes in Haiti. In June, New York City sent an 11-member team of CERT instructors to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where they trained more than 400 Haitian volunteers in basic emergency response skills during a two-week deployment. After the training, the Haitian CERT volunteers established teams and deployed them at the Petionville Club, a former golf course that housed more than 50,000 people displaced by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck near Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010.
The CERT concept was first developed in 1985 by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department, which recognized citizens would likely be on their own during the early stages of a disaster. The Los Angeles CERT training proved to be so beneficial that FEMA decided the program should be made available to communities across the United States. In 1994, FEMA and the Los Angeles Fire Department expanded the CERT curriculum. And, in 2003, FEMA's Citizen Corps Council adopted CERT as a primary way to encourage people to volunteer to make their communities safer, stronger and better prepared to respond to emergencies. There are currently more than 3,500 active CERT programs in the United States.
In New York City, the CERT program is a collaborative effort between the Office Of Emergency Management and the NYPD, FDNY and Health Department. The next round of CERT training will begin in late February. For more information about the CERT program, or if you are interested in becoming a CERT volunteer, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov.
Stu Loeser/Marc La Vorgna (212) 788-2958
Chris Gilbride (OEM)
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