Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to educate Staten Island neighborhoods at risk about Firewise

Blog Post created by laurenbackstrom Employee on Apr 17, 2012

CERT members

Port Richmond CERT members assisting with traffic control during 4 alarm brush fire at the Fresh Kills Landfill on April 9th

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On February 28, 2012, I posted a blog describing the ongoing brush fires occurring along the Eastern Shore of Staten Island. During the last few weeks several brush fires have erupted on Staten Island, due to dry conditions and low humidity.

Phragmites, an invasive grass, grows practically to the back doors of homes along the shoreline, and when ignited can produce flames of up to 70 feet with high rates of spread. Several agencies have joined together draft a CWPP. While mitigation strategies suggested by the plan are being implemented, efforts are underway to educate homeowners about the Firewise program.

The Port Richmond Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) has offered to deliver the Firewise message to their neighbors. CERT members are volunteers trained in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue and disaster medical operations, and can assist others in their neighborhood when professional responders are not immediately available. They support responding agencies during emergencies and take an active role in emergency preparedness projects in their community.

Port Richmond CERT have 50 members and host 60 table top events on Staten Island to distribute emergency preparedness information to residents.

I recently met with Frank Marino, Public Information Officer of Port Richmond CERT, to tour the neighborhoods along the Eastern Shore considered most at risk, and to strategize about how best to inform residents about the Firewise Communities Program. As we visited the various areas, it quickly became evident the issue was not only the close proximity of the phragmites, but one of emergency access. Many of the streets are extremely narrow and result in dead ends. Evacuation of residents, coupled with access for emergency vehicles can be problematic.

We quickly decided the Ready, Set, Go! program should be incorporated into outreach efforts.

Additional information we plan to provide for homeowners are methods they could use to reclaim their property from the phragmites to help create a safer Home Ignition Zone. Plans are now underway for CERT members to visit neighborhoods at risk to talk with residents about the Firewise program and to distribute Firewise materials. Neighborhood informational meetings will follow. In the near future, Assessing Wildfire Hazards in the Home Ignition Zone workshop will be scheduled to train CERT members to conduct home assessments.

-Heidi Wagner