Monday, May 10, 2021

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CERT Grows to Nearly 40 Active Members in North Haven


Kelly Halkyard and Michael King use the buddy system during the fire extinguishing practical class through the CERT program as CERT manager Lou Coppola looks on. Photo courtesy of Lou Coppola

Kelly Halkyard and Michael King use the buddy system during the fire extinguishing practical class through the CERT program as CERT manager Lou Coppola looks on. (Photo courtesy of Lou Coppola )

After eight weeks of classes, 22 North Haven residents graduated from the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. Nearly all of the graduates have committed to volunteering as part of CERT going forward.

Established in 2017, North Haven CERT is one of 2,700 programs nationwide. CERT is run under FEMA and is activated by the town’s emergency management director, Fire Chief Paul Januszewski, and led by Lou Coppola, CERT manager.

“This was our second-largest class we’ve hosted and it was a great turnout despite COVID. To have that many participate is excellent,” said Coppola. “I think COVID has made people realize they want to get out and help people. North Haven has also been on the news too much in recent years with storms, tornadoes, and microbursts and these classes help people learn how to set up their house in case of a disaster.”

Coppola presented the graduates with their certificates at the graduation. Of the 22 graduates, 20 opted to be sworn in as active members of CERT, which now has nearly 40 active members. Those who completed the classes include Angela Amendola, Dawn Brennan, Karen Butler, Deborah Caruso, Jim Caruso, Cheryl Coppola, Mireille Esponda, Kelly Halkyard, Stephen Hansen, Michael King, Susan Mendillo, Chip Meyers, Sean Mullenix, Michael Nappe, Trish Nitshke, Heather Osterberg-Aloi, Andrew Paolillo, Andrea Puzio, Laurie Reynolds, John Russo, Anthony Russo, and Michael Smith.

First Selectman Mike Freda, State Representative Dave Yaccarino (R-87), Januszewski, Deputy Chief Scott Martus, and Deputy Chief David Marcarelli also attended the ceremony.

Coppola was grateful to have both Martus and Marcarelli work with the graduates as Martus led a two-part fire and medical practical class and Marcarelli taught the final class, a practical for fire extinguishers. At the final class, graduates are taught to use a fire extinguisher and put out a fire under supervision.

“I remember when I took the class, they asked who had used a fire extinguisher and most people, including me, said ‘No,’” said Coppola. “It’s kind of fun to do and you learn how to actually break down a fire with the PASS acronym: Pull the pin, aim, squeeze, sweep.”

Coppola explained that Marcarelli taught students the proper usage of fire extinguishers and how to sweep the blaze, concentrating on the bottom instead of spraying it from the top. Students also learned the buddy system so that the person fighting the fire never turns their back on it in case it reignites.

In earlier classes, students learned about disaster preparedness, search and rescue, disaster medical operations, first aid, and home protection. Coppola was grateful to be able to host their classes at the Rec Center, which allowed room for social distancing.

Once students graduate from the CERT program, they are given a “go-bag,” which includes a vest, personal protective equipment, flashlight, multi-purpose tool, and first aid items. Students then have the option to be part of the CERT that can be activated by Januszewski during emergencies and that volunteers at a variety of community events.

“You can take the class and take it with you to protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors or be sworn in as active members,” said Coppola. “We stress that just because you join and you’re active doesn’t mean you have to be on the emergency call list if that is something you’re not interested in.

“You can still be an active member and participate in our community service events like the concerts on the green,” added Coppola. “You can pick and choose what you want to be involved in. We’ll have our next session of classes at the end of the year. Right now we’re getting into our busy season of community service events.”

To receive information about CERT, contact Lou Coppola at or 203-627-2553.

Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .

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