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April 22, 2014

White Lake man honored for volunteer commitment in Rochester

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — Community Emergency Response Team member Ron Oliver doesn’t live in Rochester, but that hasn’t stopped the 49-year-old from volunteering his time to assist the city’s first responders in the event of an emergency.

Oliver, of White Lake, was recently recognized by Rochester Fire Department Community Emergency Response Team coordinator John Shepp for his volunteer work with the city’s CERT group.

Oliver is a longtime family friend of Shepp and has been a member of the city’s CERT program since its inception in 2012.

“Ron actually lives in White Lake but volunteers his time here, with the city of Rochester, because he believes so strongly in our program,” Shepp said. “Ron has done a phenomenal job. He has quickly moved up to being the leader of our CERT team. He attends just about every event and activity.”

Oliver, Shepp explained, has also gone on to donate personal time to better his education within the organization.

“He’s taken an additional almost 300 hours of training over and above what’s required at the minimum, and he’s done this all on his own time and at his own expense,” Shepp noted.

Most recently, Oliver passed the Advanced CERT test, which is only offered a couple of times a year statewide.

“Since the program has started, there has been 16 CERT volunteers in the state of Michigan that have received this certification. Ron is number 17. He is the most recent Advanced CERT person,” said Shepp.

Oliver’s hometown of White Lake doesn’t have a CERT program, so when he heard Shepp was starting one in Rochester, he decided to tag along and see what it was all about.

“I went along, liked the people there, and I liked what the program was about, so I just kept going,” Oliver said.

A software engineer by day, Oliver said his interest in emergency management is somewhere between a hobby and a passion.

“I’ve been interested in emergency management and such for a long time, and it gave me an opportunity to learn a lot more about it. It set aside my curiosity and gave me useful information,” he said of his training. “It gave me a really good appreciation for how complicated the task is of dealing with these large-scale disasters and such.”

Oliver credits Shepp, Rochester Fire Chief John Cieslik and the city’s support of the CERT program for inspiring him to continue on with his CERT training.

“John Shepp makes it a great program, and the chief and the city have been extremely supportive and enthusiastic about it. That’s infectious. I can’t say for sure that I would have gone as far as I have with a program that wasn’t this good. It goes all the way up. We have great support and we have the resources we need. I have nothing but good to say about the whole Rochester group,” he said.

The city’s CERT program is a way for the city to reach out to those who could help locally in the event of a natural disaster or emergency, or even a large community event.

“More often, what the CERT team ends up doing is providing support during events like Big, Bright Lights and Art & Apples and so on, providing first aid and traffic control, sometimes searching for missing kids — basically doing things that need a little more skill than someone off the street has, but not a professional-responder level,” Oliver explained. “CERT members hit the easy stuff so that the pros are freed up for the stuff that you need to be a pro to do.”

Like many volunteer organizations, Shepp said, the CERT program experiences turnover and is always in need of new members, ages 18 and older, who want to be better prepared for disasters and help the community by becoming a member. CERT volunteers are taught basic disaster response skills — such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations.

“The people you meet in CERT are community-minded, giving people. They are generous and they are great people to be with and work with,” Oliver said.

The city’s CERT volunteers meet 7-9 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month at the Rochester Fire Department.

For more information about CERT, call Shepp at (248) 651-4470 or email RochesterCERT@gmail.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.