County offers lots of ways to volunteer

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Earlier this week, the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Preparedness sent out a test message to its Twitter followers through a program called Ready Warn, a service that distributes important messages by governmental offices to social media outlets.

According to Linda Gilmore, public information officer for Atlantic County, the social media outreach is just another facet of the services the county offers to help notify and prepare its residents for emergency situations. While emergency personnel routinely train for situations like the county witnessed after the June 30 storm, Gilmore said the county wants residents to know there are steps they can take to help themselves better prepare, as well as possibly be trained to help others in times of need.

To spread the word of threatening weather or other catastrophes, the Atlantic County Community Notification System was introduced in 2008 to provide residents with emergency alerts to landline telephone numbers.

But, with fewer people relying on landlines for communication, the county recently upgraded the system to allow cell telephone numbers to be added, Gilmore said.

"Emergency management officials recommend this service not only for residents, but also for individuals who may own second homes or businesses in Atlantic County," she said. "The system currently includes approximately 4,000 registrants."

Once a cell phone is registered, residents will be able to receive National Weather Service alerts via text directly to their mobile phones.

"This recently added feature helps to keep the public aware of potentially dangerous weather conditions regardless of time of day or location," Gilmore said.

Learn more about preparedness and registering cell phones online at

For those who wish help friends and neighbors in need during emergency situations, the county offers Federal Emergency Management Agency training as well as American Red Cross shelter operations training.

In a recent FEMA course, 11 county residents completed a training program provided by the OEP to help them be better prepared for a disaster.

"The training focuses on skills needed to prepare and respond to disasters, not only to ensure the safety and protection of themselves and their families, but also to assist first responders and community members," Gilmore said. "Training includes basic fire extinguishing, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, disaster mental health and more."

The office also sponsors ongoing American Red Cross shelter operations training in an effort to work with municipalities, partner agencies and the community to strengthen the county's disaster response capabilities.

Gilmore said residents interested in either or both of these training classes may call (609) 272-9495 for more information.

The county also accepts community members as part of the Community Emergency Response Team and the Medical Reserve Corps.

According to the county’s website, the Community Emergency Response Teams are based on a concept developed in 1985 by the Los Angeles Fire Department whose members recognized that citizens "would very likely be on their own during the early stages of a catastrophic disaster.

"Accordingly, the LAFD decided that some basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills would improve the ability of citizens to survive until emergency personnel could arrive. Thus, CERT teams were created to provide vital services in the absence of emergency responders. Today, more than 38 states and several foreign countries have instituted the CERT system."

The CERT training consists of a minimum of 20 hours of instruction. Classes are taught by emergency responders, including firefighters, emergency medical and law enforcement personnel from the community. Trained CERT volunteers have been used to search for lost or kidnapped children, staff emergency operation centers and monitor events, offer security to emergency centers, drive and assist disabled residents and coordinate "spontaneous" volunteers.

To become a CERT member you must be at least 18 years old and possess a valid driver’s license. For more information, call Jake Lees at (609) 407-6742 or email him at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Registration can be found online as well at

The Atlantic County Public Health Medical Reserve Corps serves all 23 municipalities of Atlantic County, Gilmore noted. The ACPHMRC was formed in early 2004 to recruit and train professional and community health care volunteers who are willing to assist in a public health emergency.  In 2005, the Atlantic County Public Health MRC became a registered unit of the New Jersey MRC and the national MRC, Gilmore said.

"The mission of the corps is to engage the community and build a cadre of trained and prepared volunteers who are needed to protect the health of the citizens of Atlantic County," she said.

Since its inception, the ACPHMRC has registered more than 200 volunteers and has fully trained approximately 130 professional and community volunteers to a series of state standards.

"At the current time we have about 75-100 volunteers who are actively engaged in meetings, trainings and volunteer activities, among a total of 222 registered MRC volunteers," she said. "Our health professionals are mostly nurses, but we also have doctors, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, EMTs. All health care professionals, 18 years of age and older, practicing or retired, can apply as well as any resident having an interest in health care issues and willing to serve our community."

Responsibilities of a MRC member include a basic training and ongoing education to be prepared for a variety of events. 

"Activities that volunteers may be called on to perform during a public health emergency or to ensure the safety and resiliency of our community include direct patient care such as nurses working flu clinics, health professionals working in a hurricane shelter, administration, secretarial work, translation, reception and education such as clinics, health fairs, conferences, personal preparedness activities. The type of activity is geared to personal interest, training and experience," Gilmore said.

To register to become a member of ACPHMRC see

Call Kate Adams (609) 645-7700, ext 4244 or email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Call Ben Mount (609) 645-7700, ext. 4259 or email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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