Nashua Emergency Response Team Threatens to Quit Over City Mismanagement - Granite Grok

Nashua Emergency Response Team Threatens to Quit Over City Mismanagement

The following email alleging safety and liability concerns was signed by all the members of the Greater Nashua Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Command Staff and sent to Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess.

Related: Nashua Public Health Nurse Slams Director of Public Health

From: William Lincoln
Sent: Thursday, October 1, 2020 5:20 PM
To: Donchess, James; Budreau, Larry; Bolton, Steve; Storace, Anthony M
Cc: Kates, Justin

Subject: Nashua CERT – Ongoing, unacknowledged safety & liability concerns

Dear Mayor Donchess,

This letter is to notify you that the Greater Nashua Community Emergency Response Team [CERT] has made the decision to stand down volunteer participation and service to the community until some serious Liability and Safety concerns are resolved. I apologize for the wider net of people here, but collectively we have been raising this issue for 2 months to city hall and have had zero response.

To give you some background, CERT became a national program in 1993. There are now CERT programs in all 50 states, including many tribal nations and U.S. territories. Each is unique to its community and all are essential to building a Culture of Preparedness in the United States. There are over 2,700 local CERT programs nationwide and more than 600,000 people have trained since CERT became a national program. For more information,

The Greater Nashua CERT has been in place since 2013 and provides training & preparedness education to thousands in our community to reduce the burden on local emergency by training them to be prepared, and be part of the solution not the problem.

Additionally, in times of need or crisis, Nashua CERT has been called on to aid this community. We have participated in missions such as:

  • Supporting GAD with Holiday Stroll traffic and crowd management, allowing our NPD (Nashua Police Department) officers to fill higher value roles.
  • Community outreach at different community fairs that the city holds every year (events such as touch-a-truck, preparedness weekends, etc)
  • Damage assessments, and reporting to the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) after major storms
  • We have been the primary operator of emergency shelters within Nashua, we have stood up and managed multiple shelters in various locations over the past 7 years for large multi-apartment fires
    (West Hollis St Fire), as well as shelters setup for storms during winter months.
  • Major contributions to the city’s COVID Response listed in detail below.

In our professional lives, our membership spans the gamut from Labor to Tradespeople to Management of Fortune 500 Companies. We bring those professional skills to our CERT team to better the whole, but as members of the team we take on new roles based upon our training and need. We volunteer to give back to our community and even thinking of standing down is heart breaking. We also have other commitments to our families, our employers, our employees and other community organizations. One thing sits at the heart and soul of every member of this CERT and that is to Do the Greatest Good for the Greatest number.

The current situation has created a conflict to our mandate and our beliefs. By way of background on COVID response, when the call came to aid in COVID response, we answered. We took an active and leading role in setting up the Alternate Care Site (ACS) or field hospital at Nashua South. Nearly 40 different volunteers were active during the 2-3 week period we were building the ACS. When the National Guard left, we stayed. We set up PPE and Supply logistics, a fully operational supply room and assembled nurses’ stations among other things. We committed to 24*7 volunteer staffing of the Supply Logistics for the ACS. When the call to stand down the ACS came, we answered, and when asked to assist with COVID testing, we answered the call. We have also been helping Public Health prepare for pending POD (Point of Distribution) Vaccination clinics.

During COVID testing a number of Liability, Risk and Safety issues arose which led this CERT team to temporarily stand down until resolved. As you should be aware those issues seem to have gone unanswered and also led to the resignation of more than one paid individual from Public Health.

Several incidents have occurred since July 2020 (July 9th, August 11th, August 13th) which has caused the team to step back, and now with seemingly no progress in these areas we are forced to officially stand down. Further, the command staff has met and determined if we can’t start having some reasonable conversations on how to resolve this by October 30th 2020, the 11 members of the command staff will resign from the program. It is highly likely many of our 80+ active members will do the same.

The issues at heart are about unsafe conditions that have been created at testing clinics, and even after plans were put in place after the July 9th incident, further incidents occurred (we were not present) on August 11th and 13th, leading to the resignation of the city’s PHEP (Public Health Emergency Preparedness) coordinator Mark Munroe. We are deeply disappointed in our city and mayor for not taking actions on these items, which clearly have put city employees, volunteers, and the general public at risk. There have been e-mails, conversations with multiple people from the city, including the mayor, Risk Management, and now HR, and all of those have gone unresponded to. For more details on this, I point you to the attached email that was sent to the mayor, and several other city officials by a public health nurse on August 15th, which has not even been acknowledged by the city. This email lays out what we have seen and experienced in detail.

Further, we were informed after the incident that occurred on July 9th, where a CERT member nearly needed to be transported to the hospital (per NFD (Nashua Fire Department) who was on scene) that the city does NOT cover CERT members for workman’s comp. When Justin Kates, Director of Emergency Managment founded the team 7 years ago, he worked this out with Jen Deshaies, Risk Manager, and we have been telling our members they were covered ever since in official slide decks (generally maintained by city employees in either OEM or Public Health). Jen informed us that she has decided we are not covered, and will not do so and that we should “Purchase” insurance for the team. As taxpayers in the city, this makes many of us angry, since the city as you know is self insured, and a simple MOU would solve this problem. But rather than do that, the suggestion is we spend taxpayer money to purchase a policy. It’s also important to point out that in seven years, with thousands of hours logged, by hundreds of volunteers there has been ZERO claims filed by
our team.

Our “Stand Down” and inability to volunteer as an organization stems from the need to come to written resolution and agreement on the following:

1. Liability / Workman’s Comp: The city must address, in writing, risk and liability for the CERT. This is to protect the city from liability as well to cover our volunteers in the unlikely event of litigation or harm. This should be covered in the same way city employees, and interns are covered, not by spending a large chunk of the operating grants we are issued that could vanish at any time. This is standard practice for large CERT Teams nationwide.

2. Safety / Work Environment: The situation which has created the major and ongoing safety concerns must be addressed, as well as the hostile work environment that is present within the public health department. We would also like to discuss the idea of transferring CERT Sponsorship to another city agency such as PD/FD, and working with Public Health thru that channel.

3. Role Clarification: What are the roles, responsibilities and command structure during an activation. Eg. It is common and understood that the Incident Commander or Safety Officer has the final say in Safety concerns and must stand down the mission if staff or the public are exposed to unacceptable risk. We thought this hadn been clearly laid out after the July 9th Incident, but the incidents that occurred on August 11th, and 13th show a pattern of disturbing behavior within the Public Health leadership.

4. Activation: The ground rules under which CERT will be called to action and which CERT can respond. CERT are volunteers and not paid staff and may have conflicts of interest or time. CERT should be used for emergency response purposes only, not as staff augmentation. We welcome a discussion and communication towards resolving these issues and returning to service to this community. If you have any questions, would like to have a discussion via video conference, phone, or even in person (socially distanced with masks of course!) Please contact me (Bill Lincoln) at any time, [redacted] is my primary e-mail, or via cell at [redacted].

Greater Nashua CERT Command Staff

Bill Lincoln – Program Manager, Resident/Taxpayer

Maurice Turcotte – Assistant Program Manager

John Watkins – Education Section Chief

Michael Kilty – Acting Logistics Chief / Supply Team Lead, Resident/Taxpayer

Chelsea St George – Planning Section Chief

Christine Cote – Membership Section Chief, Resident/Taxpayer

Patrick Morrison – Cont. Education Team Lead, Resident/Taxpayer

Lisa Hagemann – Equipment Team Lead, Resident/Taxpayer

Jennifer Kamel – Pet Sheltering Team Lead, Resident/Taxpayer

Brianna Dal Molin – Damage & Traffic Ops Team Lead, Resident/Taxpayer

Carl Bonefant – CERT Basic Class Team Lead, Resident/Taxpayer