Program Manager’s Moment- May 2020

Dear CERTs:

I hope you and your dear ones are well and are weathering these difficult times safely. I thought you would appreciate a report on what your CERT organization has been doing over the last two months or so. I’ve asked the Montgomery CERT COVID19 Task Force to give us a snapshot of their work:

CERT COVID19 Task Force-

Incident Commander:  Gerry Adcock

For the CERT deployment during the COVID virus, I am responsible for leading and tracking the five deployed CERT Sections: Operations, Communications, Planning, Logistics, and VERT (Virtual Emergency Response Team).  With concurrence from the CERT Program Manager, under direction of the MCFRS Division Chief, accountable for developing the IAP for CERT’s response, incident objectives, managing the Section Leads for activities, status reports, and safety of the CERT members.  Working with the Section Leads, I set the operational priorities, deployment of resources, and delivery of services in support of the OEMHS and HHS missions within the County.  Other activities have included providing operational briefings via virtual meetings, communicating daily Sit Reps to the CERT Task Force members, maintaining communications with Team members, and ensuring we continue supporting the mission of the County during the COVID19 response.

Operations Section

The Operation Section has been tasked with supporting the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) through a few initiatives. 

Volunteer Donation Management

The Volunteer Donation Management (VDM) team has been responsible for triaging all the incoming offers for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other donation items. One the priority has been established for every donation item, the donor was contacted with instructions on how and where to donate the item(s) or how to request a no-contact pickup from their residence or business.  When a pickup is requested, the Transportation team is notified to facilitate the pickup and delivery. 

To address the growing need for an up-county donation center, the VDM team stood up and staffed a donation center at Public Safety Headquarters (PHSQ) in Gaithersburg.  Throughout the month of April this donation center operated on Wednesdays and Saturdays, originally from 0900-1800 but then it was shortened to 0900-1600 as there were few donors in the last two hours of the day.  The VDM team is in the process of evaluating the need for having the donation center at PSHQ for the month of May.

To date the VDM team has triaged 458 offers and collected in excess of 30,000 pieces of PPE at the donation center at PSHQ.


The transportation team is responsible for moving assets around the county.

In the case of collecting PPE, the transportation team is notified by the VDM team that there is a need to pick up PPE from a resident in the county who is unable or unwilling to deliver the donation to a county donation center (PSHQ or DHAC).  Once notified by VDM, the transportation team dispatches a member of the team to collect the PPE from the resident and deliver it to the Dennis Avenue Health Center (DHAD) in Silver Spring for redistribution to the front-line workers.  Every attempt is made to pick up and deliver same day, however, in certain circumstances this isn’t possible, and the drop-off is made the next business day.

The transportation team has completed 39 pickups of PPE which is equivalent to 8.5% of all the PPE that has come through the VDM team.

The transportation team has also been tasked with delivering meals to residential communities in need.  The meal delivery was initially started by a group that wanted to use the commercial kitchen at the Universities at Shady Grover, but this initiative never got off the ground.  A second group, the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation in Rockville stepped up and offered to make up to 100 meals per day, seven days per week starting April 13th through April 30th.   HHS identified two communities that would accept these meals: The Oaks at Old Towne (72 meals) and the Wells/Robertson House (10 meals). 

The transportation team was responsible for picking up these meals at the temple in Rockville at 1300 and immediately delivering them to their respective locations in Gaithersburg. Unfortunately, The Oaks at Old Towne dropped out of the program after only one day.  The Wells/Robertson house dropped out of the program after 11 days.  HHS did not identify any additional recipients.

In total, the transportation team delivered 182 meals.


Brett Wernick, Jennifer St. James and Ken Ow worked with OEHMS in support of a requirement to create an easy way to schedule virtual meetings during the COVID19 pandemic. This included the creation of training documents by Ken and Jen to support both facilitators and end users. 

In addition, the team helped set up a scheduling calendar to enable easy scheduling of zoom meetings. 

Most recently, the team has created a daily time sheet to track volunteer hours in support of CERT COVID activities and continue to provide the Program Manager with daily updates.


The Covid-19 task force planning function is monitoring current CERT activities and considering potential trajectories for these and other functions in the near and long term. As PPE donations and food distribution wind down, it is appropriate to consider what additional missions CERT might get tapped for in the coming weeks and what we could be doing to prepare our members to meet them. At what point do we put the task force on hiatus? In the longer term we must consider what a second wave might look like: when could it occur (what metrics should we be looking for in our or other communities to predict its onset), how might it differ from the first wave, and how might CERT’s mission adapt to meet new needs?


The Logistics Section of the MCCERT Covid-19 Task force has focused on finding supplies that the MCCERT Team needs to do the tasks assigned to us by OEMHS and HHS. We sourced nitrile gloves for general use and 13-gallon clear plastic bags so the CERT Transport team members could protect themselves as they were driving around picking up donations.  We regularly go online to try to find additional PPE supplies, but given the scarcity of those supplies we have had no luck finding hand sanitizer or N-95 masks at a reasonable price.  We have also helped the Operations Section determine what type of PPE kits those members who are interacting with the public ideally should have.

Greg St. James
Program Manager
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue
PSHQ 2nd Floor
100 Edison Park Drive
Gaithersburg, MD 20878