SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – During the mid 1980s, a task force comprised of civilian responders was formed in California with the goal of assisting professional responders in emergency situations. 

Over the years that followed, volunteer Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) were formed throughout the country with the Borough of South Plainfield graduating its first class of CERT volunteers back in 2004. 

A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) program, CERT is administered locally through the borough’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Volunteer members are trained in disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and are called upon to assist South Plainfield’s police and fire departments along with the rescue squad. 

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“CERT members help fellow members of the community until additional resources and professional help can get there,” said Det. Lt. Wendell Born, deputy OEM coordinator for South Plainfield. 

CERT training includes two, four-hour sessions through the South Plainfield OEM as well as a six-hour online FEMA certification course. Team members are trained to provide basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operation. Additional optional training is also offered throughout the year by the Middlesex County Fire Academy. 

Over the past 15 years, South Plainfield’s CERT members have assisted the borough’s emergency service departments in a variety of situations, including but not limited to, the Labor Day parade and fireworks, high school graduations, state track meets and cheerleading competitions, and the annual Feast of St. Anthony. They have also been called in to help following Superstorm Sandy and during missing persons investigations and searches.

“In these situations our CERT members step up when we need them,” said Born. “They really help us out and do a great job.”

“Our CERT members are always out there and ready to assist and give us an extra set of hands when we need them,” added South Plainfield Det. Sgt. Gary Cassio. “It is very much appreciated.”

On a local front, the borough’s certified emergency response team is currently comprised of approximately 30 residents, including members of the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club (SPARC). In the event of an emergency in which radio systems are out for an extended period of time, SPARC/s radio operators will set up a portable communication center to keep the community informed. 

“The more people from the community who join and get trained, the better prepared we will be in an emergency,” said Born. 

For more information on the South Plainfield Community Response Team, visit; to submit an application to become a member, visit

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