Amherst has a civilian emergency team

AMHERST – “We need young folks,” representatives of a civilian emergency response group told selectmen recently.

Don Holden and Gene Kuczewski, members of the Souhegan Community Emergency Response Team, went before the board to explain their mission and asked if they can link to the town’s website and if the town could pay for the criminal background checks they require.

The all-volunteer organization started a few years ago to provide help to first responders during catastrophic emergencies, such as tornados and floods.

They focus on areas such as traffic control, wellness checks, and drinking water distribution, and can be activated in an emergency by fire or police chiefs. Several members are ham radio operators who can provide alternate communication during emergencies.

A new goal is education, Kuczewski said, to help people learn more about such things as Lyme disease, 911 calls and safe placement of generators. CERT also provided assistance during the free H1N1 flu vaccination event at the Souhegan High School a few years ago and is available to assist with public events such as the 4th of July Fourth celebration.

The group has 24 members, with about 13 active members and they meet once a month and are required to take a 22-hour course that includes CPR, first aid and traffic management training. Most are between 55 and 70 years old and include a retired nurse and two retired emergency medical technicians.

Members are from Milford, Amherst, Mont Vernon and Lyndeborough, but most of the work they do is in Amherst, he said. “Unfortunately some towns don’t want to use us, they think we’re taking money away from people who could be making extra money.”

“We’re not here to save the town money,” Kuczewski said, “we’re here to help police, fire, EMTs do their job. We take care of the small stuff so they can go out to do the big stuff.”

Selectmen said they seem to be providing a valuable service and it’s good to know the group can help search for a missing child.

They took the requests under advisement.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.