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CERT and Riverbay planning a major disaster response drill  











as reported by Bill Stuttig in the Co-op City Times, Saturday, January 29, 2011

Co-op City's volunteer Community Response Team held the second in a series of meetings with Key Riverbay departments and directors in order to fine-tune the community's emergency response strategies.


The first in a series of what is being termed "table top exercise orientation" was held in mid-December and featured some of the community's CERT members discussing with the commanders of the Co-op City Department of Public Safety specific strategies for the two units to coordinate duties in th event of a major emergency, such as a community wide power failure. 


This second meeting, held on January 20th, was expanded to include input from Riverbay's Safety Director Kevin Keenan and Riverbay's Power Plant Director Brian Reardon.

Board Director Khalil Abdul-Wahhab, who has led Co-op City's volunteer CERT team since its inception in July 2008, said this week that the second meeting took the discussion to the next level, which was to look at Riverbay's existing emergency response procedures and to refind them to allow Riverbay to better understand exactly how they can with the community's CERT team members to allow their services to augment what has already been put in place. Exact details were discussed, such as available emergency supplies on hand, potential locations for shelters for temporarily displaced residents and the coordination of personnel to provide services and information to the residents at the outset and over the duration of the emergency.

Abdul-Wahhab said the next meeting . scheduled for sometime in February, will potentially include the input of representatives from the NYPD, FDNY, and the American Red Cross. 


All this is being discussed in preparation for a major drill to be staged within the community, simulating a major emergency and the coordinated response of Riverbay, CERT, several departments, and outside agencies. 


Public Safety's Chief Frank Apollo, whose department has chief responsibility as first responders until another agency, such as the city's Office of Emergency Management or the NYPD, or even the Federal Department of Homeland Security takes command, said: "W went over policies that are in place and made revisions to certain procedures."


Responsibilities for certain functions, such as traffic control, the distribution of water and other supplies and strategies for leading evacuations and securing evacuees in a safe, comfortable environment, were all discussed and assigned to the specific teams. 


Riverbay's Safety Director Kevin Reenan said that the specific number of emergency supplies at Riverbay's immediate disposal was discussed along with procedures for assigning Riverbay personnel to specific areas and duties affected by the emergency.


Abdul-Wahhab called these series of meetings unprecedented in the Tri-State area in that a community's volunteer CERT team was working directly with the community's police force and management team in setting strategies and policies for an emergency preparedness plan specific to the community.

In July of 2008, a similar drill to the one that is being planned for later this year was staged by the city's Office of Emergency

Management an Adler Place in order to test the capabilities of the community's newly trained CERT team members. The drill was the final test for the new volunteer members, many of whom live in Co-op City, before being certified by the City of New York's OEM as Community Emergency Response Team members.


CERT was a program started by OEM over the past several years in response to a number of emergency situations that struch residential communities within the five boroughs over the past decade. Volunteer community members are trained to be the first responders in an emergency to assist residentsimmediately in the case where the city's emergency crews have not yet arrived on the emergency scene. After the city agencies do respond to the emergency, CERT team members stay on hand to assist professional emergency responders in any way possible under the command under the command of professional emergency  response agencies, such as FDNY, NYPD or OEM.

While most Community Board Districts throughout the city have volunteer CERT teams assigned to them, Abdul-Wahhab explained that Co-op City is unique because it has its own specific CERT team to respond to emergencies in the community because of Co-op City's uniquely large and concentrated population.