Person of the Week
Matt Herman: Planning for Emergencies
After starting on a path of community service as a boy scout growing up in Essex, Matt Herman continues to serve the community, now as emergency management director in Deep River. (Photo courtesy of Matt Herman )
By the time he was 15, Matt Herman knew community service would be a big part of his life. That is when he joined both the Essex Fire Department and the Essex Ambulance Association. Now, Matt, 28, is the emergency management director of Deep River where he and his wife Julianna moved two years ago.
Matt is a member of the Deep River Fire Department, and the Deep River Ambulance Association, and he also remains a member of the Essex Ambulance Association.
If he’s is lucky, there will not be any emergency calls on Saturday, Feb. 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. He plans to be at Deep River’s Heartfelt Market, an event initiated by Jane Moen, whose organization, A Little Compassion, operates The Nest Coffee Shop, and Sage Novak, who owns two clothing stores in Deep River, Anchor and Compass and Compass Rose.
The market, which will take place in downtown Deep River, will feature local merchants who will make donations, in many cases based on the day’s sales’ percentages, that will go to Deep River’s first response organizations, both the Ambulance Association and the Fire Department. Shoppers will get hearts from each store they visit, whether or not they make a purchase, and if they turn in the hearts at The Nest, they will be eligible for a drawing for $50 in cash at the end of the day.
“Our ambulance and fire volunteers have continued their invaluable services of protecting our townspeople and their homes during these tough COVID times without fail” Moen says. “By hosting this market in a safe and fun way, Deep River residents, visitors, and businesses will collectively be able to show our heartfelt thanks symbolically and financially to both departments.”
As director of emergency management, a post Matt assumed in Deep River more than a year ago, one of his most important responsibilities is coordinating the work of different responders.
“You are the liaison with the agencies who are involved in emergencies, the state, the town, FEMA and private entities like Eversource,” he explains.
Emergency management, he points out, means dealing with problems over time until there is a solution.
“With emergency management, you can be dealing with lasting effects. In a flood, you have water over the roads, road closures, evacuating people if necessary,” he says. “You have to stick with things.”
Before COVID-19 created an emergency on a worldwide level, Matt admitted, he thought of pandemics as something that were a part of the past, history, rather than a current threat. One of the first things he had to worry about, he recalls, was acquiring protective equipment.
“Gowns, masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, we needed them all instantly,” he says.
The state made equipment available and, Matt says, there was also a tremendous outpouring from the community.
“There were multiple offers of assistance, the community coming together,” he recalls.
Matt got interested in both fire and ambulance service when he was in Boy Scout Troop 12 in Essex. There is a lasting reminder of his scout days in Essex, the shed behind Pratt House, the headquarters of the Essex Historical Society. The garden on the property had just been started, but there was no place to store gardening equipment until Matt’s eagle scout project. He designed and supervised the building of the shed.
“Rustic and good-looking,” is the way he describes the structure.
Matt liked the community service that was part of scouting but realized that when his scouting days ended, he would have to find other ways to serve. That’s what led him to the ambulance and fire services in Essex.
At 15, he was too young to go into burning building, but he assisted with external work helping firefighters who did enter the flaming structures. The state, however, allowed the youngest members, once they had earned basic certification, to be part of the team going on medical responder calls.
Matt points out the importance of volunteers in the operation of ambulance and fire services.
“We’re very fortunate to have strong, dedicated volunteer organizations. That brings something very special. There is a different level of competency when local agencies know the people they are helping,” he says.
With his medical response training, when Matt graduated from Valley Regional High School in 2011, he decided to major in nursing at Southern Connecticut State University. After starting the program, however, he decided that he would rather do nursing as a volunteer activity, not as a career. He changed his major to business, thinking he would go into pharmaceutical sales.
At the same time, he got a part-time job in the warehouse at Whelen Engineering, and progressed to a sales internship. Now, with a both an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in business from Southern, Matt is northeast regional sales manager for Whelen’s Law Enforcement Division.
“I think what I do now is still a way of helping the community,” he says.
Matt says the funds raised in the upcoming Heartfelt Market will make a difference to both the town’s fire department and ambulance organization. The Ambulance Association would like to buy a second AED defibrillator, a newer piece of equipment than the one they now have. The ambulance service would also like another assisted compression machine. One of its two ambulances has one, but not the other.
Matt thinks that the upcoming market is about far more than simply shopping. “It is a community event; it’s businesses coming together and people showing love and support,” he says.
Saturday, Feb. 6,
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Downtown Deep River