FAIRFIELD, NJ — Fairfield Township Police Chief Anthony Manna, recently presented Carla Simcoe Marris, West Essex Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) coordinator, with a $1,000 check from the Fairfield Police Foundation for the team’s dedication to helping the police department and the community.
Manna stated that the CERT team has not been funded properly in the past, and that the Fairfield Police Foundation is committed to helping. During last week’s township council meeting, Manna asked the governing body to consider placing money in next year’s budget for the team, which Mayor James Gasparini agreed to look into.
Addressing the mayor and council, Marris explained that Chief Joe Clark of the North Caldwell Police Department founded the West Essex CERT team in 2006. She said that many of the individuals who took the class at the time are still on the team today.
“Back then, the class took about three months to complete, and it gave us a lot of instruction and hands on experiences,” said Marris. “We learned search and rescue, what to do in fires, rescue cribbing, medical procedures and many other things to help in emergencies.”
Marris also noted that the CERT has been instrumental in helping with the floods in Fairfield.
“I myself took off from work for a week during the big storm Irene,” she said. “We opened a shelter in West Essex High School from Sunday through Friday that week. We then moved over to the Fairfield Police Department’s parking lot and opened a drive thru pick up for water, lime and cleaning supplies. We had multiple stations. The residents would drive in, and we would fill their trunks and out they went.”
During other floods in Fairfield, Marris said the West Essex CERT
In addition to running shelters for a few days during several floods, Marris said the West Essex CERT has also helped with many local events, such as 5K run/walks in Fairfield and other towns.
“At these events, we help the police by blocking the roads and making sure no one goes through while the run is going by,” said Marris. “We help with carnivals and parades in the towns as eyes and ears for the police...We have been utilized for helping to find a lost dementia person when the person never came back home.”
Two years ago, Marris inquired about moving the West Essex CERT—which serves Fairfield, Caldwell, West Caldwell, North Caldwell, Essex Fells and Roseland—headquarters to Fairfield.
“This has been fantastic for our team,” said Marris. “It has been wonderful being in Fairfield with Chief Manna and Sgt. Christopher Niemiec. They have done so much for us. We now have meetings every other month in the new recreation building…We not only get to help the police and the residents, but we have become friends.”
Members of the West Essex CERT are all CPR certified, and the program has been recognized as a 501©3 organization.
Anyone wishing to join CERT should contact Marris at 973-715-8811.