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Preparedness the key to Morrow citizen program

By Ed Brock

Watching from the sidelines as the other members of their Community Emergency Response Team class edge up to burning barrels of diesel fuel with fire extinguishers at the ready, Margie and Jim Cobb claim they aren't nervous about taking their turn at fire fighting.

"Well, I've never done it before. It'll be a new experience," Margie Cobb said with the flames mirrored in her eyes.

The Cobbs and about 20 other people who live in or around the city of Morrow were in their second session of the seven-week class that will give them the skills to take a leading role if their community is struck by a major disaster. Class 2's lessons dealt with recognizing the different kinds of fires, what fuels them and how to fight them.

"Always, always, always leave yourself a way out," Morrow fire Lt. Carl DeMarco, also the Cobb's son-in-law, tells his class. "Never turn your back on that fire."

The classes are held once a week at the Morrow Municipal Complex, each one about three hours long, but the Cobbs, who are both retired, say they haven't been bored.

"The things we've overlooked," Jim Cobb said, referring to his favorite part of the class. "There's just thing after thing we've taken for granted n we've had fire hazards in our house and didn't know it."

In the next four classes will include performing triage on wounded people, simple search and rescue techniques and how to organize a response team. At the end of the course they will don the green hard hats and orange vests that will mark them as CERT members and participate in a disaster scenario.

For Marsha Brewer, who works as a bookkeeper at Morrow High School, joining the CERT class was a way of joining the family tradition.

"My son's a firefighter, my son-in-law's a firefighter and my daughter is a police officer," Brewer said.

Many of the members of this CERT class have also graduated from the city's Citizens' Police Academy.

"They already have familiarity with how government works, how emergency services work," Morrow Police Chief Kenny Smith said. "It's just to supplement our emergency services ? say maybe we're having a problem in a parking lot with people hanging out or whatever and we just need somebody to be eyes and ears."

The composition of the class includes a mixture of residents and non-residents in case a disaster like a tornado incapacitates the entire town, Smith said. For the same reason the CERT members live on both sides of the railroad tracks that divide the city.

And they will always work as a team.

"Two in, two out," DeMarco tells the class. "Do not do a fire on your own, do not do search and rescue on your own, do not do anything on your own."