A sudden thunderstorm that brought hail and heavy rain in the late afternoon last Tuesday caused significant damage in Brookline. Car windows were damaged and some homes experienced flooding, including residents at 99 Kent Street, many of who are elderly and disabled.

Around 4:30 p.m. Brookline Police Officer and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) co-coordinator Casey Hatchett received a call from Sgt. Mike Raskin about water damage at 99 Kent St. Raskin is also a co-coordinator with CERT. He asked Hatchett to send out a text message to the Health and Homeland Alert Network (HHAN) to activate the team of CERT volunteers to help with opening temporary shelters for the displaced residents.

“About 15 volunteers showed up [at 99 Kent] in about ½ hour,” Hatchett said. Many of the CERT volunteers are local residents while others work for the town of Brookline but live elsewhere. Volunteers assisted police, fire and EMS personnel who were going door-to-door to check on residents and ask people to evacuate so the safety of each unit could be determined. The Brookline Fire and Police Departments, EMT Paramedics, the Red Cross and Winn Management, who manages 99 Kent Street, also responded and were on the scene to assist.

Assessing the damage

The 5th floor was the most affected by the storm, which brought a sudden and violent deluge of hail and heavy rain and displaced about 40 residents. The EMT carried many of the elderly and disabled residents out of the building using stair chairs.

Some of the displaced were united with family and friends to help care for them. Others were booked in hotel rooms. Meanwhile CERT volunteers ordered pizza for busy emergency personnel, who worked into the early morning hours. Other volunteers sat with the displaced residents to talk to them and ascertain if they needed any medicine or personal items from their units.

EP Buddy Program Comes Through for One Distressed Resident

For some of the residents, the call to evacuate came as a surprise; others were simply distraught over the freakish nature of the storm and its aftermath. Hatchett described one woman whose unit was “severely affected.” The woman had limited mobility, a history of seizures and was extremely anxious. CERT and other emergency personnel took pains to ameliorate her stress but the woman started to have a seizure.

Hatchett learned that one of her CERT volunteers was also an Emergency Preparedness Buddy who had been teamed with the woman and knew her medical concerns and how to best interact with her. The EP Buddy Program was developed to pair at-risk elderly residents who do not have children or close family living nearby with a volunteer who can check in on them during and after an emergency. The woman’s EP Buddy was able to connect with the woman and make sure she was safely booked into a room at the Holiday Inn while the damage to her unit was repaired.

As of Monday afternoon, 13 displaced households have returned to their units. The rest will need to wait until their apartments completely dry out before they are safe to re-inhabit.

“Winn Management was very responsive,” Hatchett remarked about the managers of 99 Kent. “They know their residents and what they need and had a cleaning crew on site even before our CERT volunteers left.”

Hatchett is also proud of CERT’s response to the situation and how well all the responders combined their skills and expertise to work together seamlessly.

“It’s a scary situation being displaced from your home. Many of these residents are in their 80s and 90s. It’s traumatic. Community members can bring critical help, even it’s just a friendly smile and someone to talk to.”

Volunteering for Brookline CERT

Hatchett has been a co-coordinator of CERT since its inception 11 years ago. They currently have 200 members. CERT volunteers go through 10 weeks of training once a year, with continuing education opportunities throughout the rest of the year. She encourages Brookline residents who are interested in becoming a CERT volunteer to attend the next training session happening in late September. For more information, email Casey Hatchett.

—By Jennifer Campaniolo