Always ready for action

Always ready for action

Mayor Jeff Mutter presents citations of commendation at a Town Council meeting last month to Alan Bourgette, left, and Ann Jalette, center, two Cumberland Community Emergency Response Team members hailed for saving lives. At right is Tony Silva, who heads up the Cumberland program, and next to him is Glen Huestis, the man Jalette saved in May. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)
Trained volunteer responders hailed for heroism

CUMBERLAND – Back in 2003, the town of Cumberland was one of many communities across the country to form a Community Emergency Response Team in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks of 2001.

ERT teams had been formed in California in the 1980s, said former Chief of Police Tony Silva, longtime leader of the local team, and it was recommended by state and local governments that teams should be established everywhere to assist their communities in disaster preparedness.

In Cumberland, the 33 members of the CERT, many on it since the beginning, are spread across the town, trained and at the ready if disaster strikes. And while their tasks might often focus on traffic control at local events or assisting with vaccination clinics, sometimes they’re called upon to save a life.

Two local longtime CERT members, Ann Jalette and Alan Bourgette, were honored last month for their life-saving efforts.

Jalette, of the Chomka family’s Vose True Value Hardware in Woonsocket and a lifelong Cumberland resident, received a citation at the Aug. 21 council meeting for jumping into action on May 11, following three days of retraining for 25 CERT members, while selling flowers for Mother’s Day. Someone came out of the NAPA Auto Parts store next door screaming for help, said Silva, and Jalette “didn’t vacillate for a second,” instinctively doing what any member of the team would and running to help. If not for her work administering chest compressions and doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for Glen Huestis, a NAPA worker who had collapsed on the floor and was effectively dead, said Silva, doctors told Huestis that he wouldn’t be the man he is today and probably wouldn’t be sitting in the room as Jalette was honored.

Jalette joined the CERT after seeing an ad in The Valley Breeze back in 2003. She didn’t realize what the training entailed until she arrived, seeing it only as a good way to take a free CPR course.

“It’s made me feel good about how prepared the town is,” she said, particularly interacting with police, fire and rescue personnel. “Everything’s in place and ready to go.”

Helping Huestis was her first experience saving a life, said Jalette, and she credits the great refresher training she’d received two days earlier for being able to do it.

“I didn’t even have to think, it just came automatically,” she said. Though she feared Huestis would have brain damage, he ended up fine, she said.

Jalette had thought about skipping the May training as she prepared for Mother’s Day, but decided to go. She remembers what an unusually good session it was, with especially impactful emphasis and correction on doing techniques the right way.

Jalette said it’s always been such a good feeling being able to help out with the CERT team, particularly joining up on trainings with other towns.

Jalette said her mom was a member of a Polish club in the 1970s when someone collapsed and no one was there to help. She ended up starting a CPR course at their church, St. Joan of Arc in Cumberland. Jalette was too young at the time to get certified, but her mom still made the children go. Those childhood memories put her on the road to becoming a volunteer responder.

In June of 2015, Jalette’s fellow CERT member Bourgette was working out at the Fore Court Racquet & Fitness Club when a man collapsed. Bourgette immediately followed his training gained through CERT and at his workplace J.H. Lynch and performed life-saving measures on the victim.

Both of these CERT team members know their duty is to help, said Silva, and they acted with courage.

“It just goes to show you how important volunteerism is in the community, how lucky we are to have a response team in this town of 33 members who are very active, and I will tell you this, you can pick up the phone and call Rhode Island Emergency Management, you can call the Department of Health, and they’re going to tell you we have the top team in the state,” he said.

Mayor Jeff Mutter, in presenting the citations, thanked the CERT members for all they do for the town. Councilor Mike Kinch said Silva made a good point in noting that these are the town’s unsung heroes. He said he remembered many of the faces in the room from bad hurricanes and snowstorms when they stayed overnight at the police station where he worked as deputy chief. The Cumberland emergency response center was the last one to close, he said.

CERTs supplement police, fire and rescue personnel on the scene of an emergency. Skills include fire suppression, hazardous material response, flood emergency techniques, managing a shelter, CPR, and operating an automatic external defibrillator, among others.