Community Board 11 Seeks CERT Volunteers
The last big hurricane to land in New York, Hurricane Gloria, struck in September 1985. However, the ongoing catastrophic disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina in the city of New Orleans and along the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico has again demonstrated the critical need for effective emergency response, something that became reality four years ago this week in New York City.
Among the emergency response plans the city Office of Emergency Management (OEM) organized since 9/11 are Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). The CERT program is designed to train local people to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergency situations within each of the 59 community boards in New York City. Community Board 11 is currently seeking volunteers for this potentially lifesaving task. “The idea is to have civilian teams ready to respond,” said Jerry Iannece, president of Community Board 11 at its September 6 meeting held in Bayside.
Community Board 11 serves the communities of Auburndale, Bayside, Douglaston, Hollis Hills, Little Neck and Oakland Gardens.
The teams of about 30 volunteers per community board will receive 11 weeks of training one day a week for three hours on fire safety, light search and rescue operations, disaster medical operations and disaster mental health intervention. Once trained, volunteers would be able to provide immediate assistance to their neighbors until officials arrive.
In “Ready New York”, a how-to preparedness guide for citizens published by OEM, emergencies such as fire, earthquakes, building collapses or explosions, disease outbreaks or biological events, hazardous materials or chemical spills, terrorism, and weather disasters, are all covered. “In some cases,” the guide states, “it may be necessary to evacuate your home or neighborhood.”
With an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 residents still in a devastated New Orleans, its mayor, C. Ray Nagin, is grappling with how best to evacuate the remaining citizens left behind amidst growing dangers of gas leaks, fire, toxicity and diseases. CERT teams could serve an important role in the case of such a necessary evacuation because of their knowledge of neighbors and community.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has reassured New Yorkers that the city has emergency plans in place for a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina. OEM tracks all such storms and the city is not below sea level, as is New Orleans. However, areas that could become flooded include Lower Manhattan, The Rockaways, and Coney Island, Bloomberg said at a news conference held on September 1 and reported by the New York Sun.
“We’ve made sure that we have evacuation routes and have a way to inform people, we’ll use radio, we’ll use television, we’ll go knocking door to door if that’s what it takes,” the mayor said in the Sun, issue of September 2–4.
For information on Community Board 11’s CERT team, call 718-225-1054. For information on OEM emergency preparedness go to nyc.gov/oem.
In other business, the board approved an amendment to a variance to permit a gastroenterologist’s medical office at 241-02 Northern Blvd. and denied the extension of a term for a previously granted variance allowing an auto repair facility for an existing automotive dealership (Bayside BMW) at 217-07 Northern Blvd.
The CERT program is designed to train local people to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergency situations within each of the 59 community boards in New York City. Community Board 11 is currently seeking volunteers for this potentially lifesaving task.