Editor's Note: Hurricane Sandy demonstrated how traditional first responders can be overwhelmed by disasters, underscoring the value of trained auxiliary volunteers.

PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Each year Picatinny Arsenal conducts an All Hazards Exercise.

During the most recent exercise the garrison commander called upon the installation's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to assist, which gives CERT members an opportunity to practice some of the skills they might use in a real emergency.

Last month, the commander recognized three people who contributed to the success of the installation exercise: David Charowsky and Gordon James of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center and Jason Mackie of the U.S. Army Contracting Command.

They supported the installation-curtailment portion of the exercise, providing community awareness of changes the workforce could expect during an actual emergency and how it might affect their routines.

"It is not easy putting on an installation exercise," Lt. Col. Jason Mackay, Picatinny garrison commander said during a ceremony honoring the trio. "It always helps when you have people pushing and helping you out."

The three team members ensured that their building tenants knew what was happening by passing information out via email and sometimes even with handouts to drivers passing by.
Mackay recalled a mentor telling him that volunteering is not always a bad thing. "If you can't get out of something, you might as well get into it."

Why Become a CERT member?

After a major disaster, first responders may not be able to meet the increased demand for services. A high number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages will prevent people from obtaining emergency services through 911.

People will have to rely on each other for help to meet their immediate life-saving and life- sustaining needs. Also, emergency services may not be available after a major disaster, especially without warning as in the case of an earthquake.

The CERT course benefits anyone who takes it and would help a CERT member to be better prepared to respond to, and cope with, the aftermath of a disaster.

Also, if a community wants to supplement its response capability after a disaster, civilians can be recruited and trained as teams in neighborhoods, business, and government that, in essence, will be auxiliary responders.


The Picatinny CERT is sponsored by the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security in partnership with the Morris County Office of Emergency Management and New Jersey CERT.

The training is scheduled through the installation Emergency Manager. Picatinny Arsenal personnel that join are provided a week of training on disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue operations.

Advanced classes provide additional training and certifications such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation by health professionals.

William Doyle is the garrison's Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection Officer. Craig Cugini heads the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs Specialist Eric Kowal contributed to this article.