East Mountain CERT ceases operations

a wildland firefighter looking over the charred remains of a mountain landscape in New Mexico
Midjourney Image - Todd Brogowski/Mountainair Dispatch
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East Mountain CERT (community emergency response team) was, until yesterday's Torrance County Commissioners meeting, the only volunteer emergency response program operating in Torrance County.  At the September 27, 2023, county commissioners meeting, a representative of East Mountain CERT, Vicki Voyles, stated that the organization was shutting down.  Voyles explained that she was announcing "the abolishment of East Mountain CERT."

"The reasons include lack of ability to acquire new volunteers, aging existing volunteers, and lack of support from emergency managers in the last seven years. With no financial or moral support and our volunteers paying for all supplies, it has become an undue burden to continue to service the community."
-- Vicki Voyles (September 27, 2023, Torrance County Commissioners Meeting)

Torrance County Emergency Management Director Samantha O'Dell said that the county "appreciated all their [East Mountain CERT] hard work over the years." O'Dell also said that if local residents were interested in volunteering for an emergency management volunteer group, they should email her (sodell@tcnm.us). O'Dell said that a successor group would be stood up soon.

Disaster response has become an increasingly streamlined process since September 11, 2001. Since that time, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has instituted federal regulations binding on federal, state, county, municipal, and volunteer organizations that established a clear chain of command as part of emergency management, known as the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Local search and rescue and disaster response organizations utilize the NIMS framework.

(Disclosure: The author is a former public information officer for the disaster response organization Team Rubicon and is subject to biases regarding disaster response based on that work.)

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