TRENTON, N.J. –The Assembly Homeland Security Committee today passed a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Jay Webber that permits trained community volunteers to perform traffic duties in emergency situations.
“The coronavirus has sidelined thousands of police officers in New Jersey. At one point, one in 20 officers were unable to work either because they were quarantining or they contracted the virus,” said Webber (R-Morris). “In times of emergency, we need to empower trained volunteers to take over traffic duties while our men and women in blue are responding to more urgent calls for help.”
Webber’s bill would expand the scope of activities that can be performed by Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers working under the authority of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to include traffic control duties. Through the existing CERT program, volunteers are trained to provide emergency support such as assisting first responders, helping organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site, and staffing Emergency Operations Centers. During the state’s public health emergency, CERT members have also helped facilitate Covid-19 testing in their communities. CERT volunteers are part of the Citizen Corps Program formed by President George W. Bush following the events of September 11.
“I’m grateful that we have incredible and selfless first responders and community volunteers who have stepped up like never before during the pandemic,” said Webber. “This bill will prioritize public safety and benefit public servants.”
Prior to assuming any traffic duties during an emergency or disaster, a CERT volunteer would be required to pass a physical exam and complete a training course. CERT traffic officers would be appointed for a term of up to five years.