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The group graduated its first 33 members in mid-January after 11 weeks of training in various emergency scenarios, including how to assist people with head, neck and back traumas, helping with crowd control, how to evacuate subway cars in case of a fire, how to stop bleeding, how to assist at the scene of a fire, and how to move injured people. The CERT team will respond to emergencies in Astoria, Long Island City, and parts of Jackson Heights and Woodside.Chapter Chief James Pollock said the formation of the group will allow additional qualified people to help at the scene of accidents and fires."Disasters are going to happen and we currently don't have enough people in the community trained how to respond," he said. Pollock said group members range in age from 18 to 70 years old. Members include nine auxiliary police officers, a resident from Ravenswood senior center, a commuter from Pennsylvania and 15 participants from the 114th Civilian Observation Patrol, of which Pollock has been a member for 25 years and is currently the president.Pollock said New Yorkers are more than often willing to help their fellow residents at the scene of an accident or fire. However, he said most residents are not aware of proper procedures for helping injured people."People's instinct right away is to run into a burning building," he said. "Your own safety is your first responsibility. If you come across a building in which two floors have collapsed, you are not going to enter that building until the Fire Department has arrived and the building has been found to be safe enough. Then you go in as a team."He said if a CERT group is the first at the scene of a dangerous situation, they can treat injured people and take responsibility as the incident commander. If they arrive first at the scene of a fire, their duty is to look for towels hanging out of windows to identify people in need of help and check to see if the building appears stable from the outside. Once the Fire Department arrives, they turn over authority to firefighters and enter the building only after being notified to do so, Pollock said.Astoria's CERT is currently meeting with local community boards, civic groups, senior citizen groups and schools to discuss how to respond to an emergency. Pollock said the group intends to do blood drives at some point, following in the footsteps of the city's other CERT groups throughout the five boroughs.Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D- Astoria) said CERT will be an important asset to the Astoria community."This is something we are proud of that will make Astoria even safer," he said.Reach reporter Nathan Duke by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2006 Community Newspaper Group
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