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Wyckoff's Emergency Response Leader Sad to Be Leaving

Debbie Kinney-Chen is looking for a new CERT leader to replace her and coordinate volunteers for local emergency response.

Wyckoff’s Community Emergency Response Team is looking for a new leader following the announcement recently that current coordinator Debbie Kinney-Chen will be stepping down as soon as a replacement is found.

Working under the local Office of Emergency Management and overseen by Wyckoff Police Lieutenant Charlie Van Dyk, CERT trains volunteers to respond to emergency situations in the community. Currently there are about 50 members.

Kinney-Chen has decided to step down, citing the need for more time with her family. She has been the coordinator since Wyckoff CERT’s inception three years ago.

As a former volunteer for a county crisis team and a FEMA-certified volunteer, Kinney-Chen remembers being excited when she saw the advertisement in the paper for the CERT team in 2010.

“It was with heavy heart that I came to the decision to step down from the position as the coordinator,” said Kinney-Chen. “It really has been an honor to serve the Wyckoff community in this capacity. As the team continues to grow, I feel the person in the leadership role should have a little more time to give to help the team move further in the direction it is going.”

Kinney-Chen, who is also a full-time clinical social worker, said certain characteristics would make a good CERT leader.

“Good interpersonal skills are essential for coordinating a team of people and working collaboratively with all the other townships organizations that come together at community events and during emergency situations,” she said.  “The person taking over the CERT leadership role should have the ability to motivate the volunteer members and generate interest from within the community to grow the team. Good organizational skills are a must.”

The coordinator would also be responsible for maintaining a registry and contact list, developing a call-out procedure, coordinating meetings, coordinating classes and events, and would need to be “very computer savvy,” said Van Dyk.

Every CERT member is required to attend a seven-week county training that amounts to two and a half hours every week. Topics covered include: disaster preparedness, medical operations, fire suppression, search and rescue, disaster psychology, terrorism awareness, and animal preparedness.  

Kinney-Chen admits she will miss the excitement of being on the CERT team when she is replaced. Hurricane Sandy put the team’s skills to good use by reaching out to neighbors, providing welfare checks on the elderly, and helping at two shelters set up in town.

“I was inspired by those who came out to offer their support to others, while experiencing the same conditions in their own homes and with their own families,” said Kinney-Chen.  “It was a true example of volunteerism at its best.”

Kinney-Chen will not fully vacate the position until the new coordinator is well settled in. “Even then, I will still be available to answer any questions or help out in any way necessary,” she added.

Contact wyckoffcert@gmail.com for more info on the position.

Have a question or news tip for Wyckoff-Franklin Lakes Patch? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Q February 26, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Thanks for your service to the town, Debbie!!

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