When a two-alarm fire is reported at 4 a.m., volunteers from CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) are ready to assist the afflicted. By 4:30 Thursday morning, a ten-person group had set up a shelter at the Brookline Senior Center for the displaced residents of 669 and 671 Washington Street.
Brookline Police Officer Casey Hatchett and Detective Mike Raskin head up the Brookline CERT program, which works with the Medical Reserve Corps as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Citizen Corp Program.
On Thursday, CERT worked along side the American Red Cross to provide shelter for the victims of the early morning fire. MBTA busses brought 10 displaced residents to the Senior Center, where they were “kept warm and well fed,” Hatchett said. From the shelter, the ten residents could make phone calls to loved ones and friends in order to make arrangements for their next moves.
“A resident from a fire last year (on Beacon Street last January) brought materials to the Senior Center because she remembered how hard her experience was and how helpful CERT was,” Hatchett said. “CERT helped her out and so she felt compelled to help out.”
Volunteers brought food and clothing as well as cell phone chargers. According to Hatchett, one volunteer put together a bag of clothes and loaded them into the dryer at the senior center so that they would be warm for the incoming victims of the fire.
“I can’t say enough about my volunteers,” Hatchett said. “They are a great group of people who will get up at 4 a.m. in the cold and help others out of the kindness of their hearts. The police and fire get to do their jobs without worrying about the well being of the displaced.”
The Red Cross made arrangements for many of the residents to stay in hotels for the next four days. Those who could return to their apartments to collect some of their belongings were shuttled back by CERT members. Catering By Andrew provided lunch for everyone at the shelter.
“Our mission is to make the worst day of these people's lives a little less horrible,” Hatchett said.
CERT is offering a 10-week training program for anyone interested in helping out the community. Here is a link to their website: http://www.brooklinema.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=647&Itemid=1107