9/1/2009 | 3 MINUTE READ

Grassroots Public/Private

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Citizen Corps programs work to bring government and private citizens together to tackle local preparedness and response challenges. If you aren't already involved, find out why you should be.


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Public/private partnerships come in a multitude of organizational structures, with a great variety of participants. In this column, I'll explore one of my favorite public/private partnerships: Citizen Corps. It's something you may have heard of and something I encourage you to participate in as well.

Citizen Corps is "FEMA's grassroots strategy to bring together government and community leaders to involve citizens in all-hazards emergency preparedness and resilience." There are more than 2400 Citizen Corps Councils in the U.S. Citizen Corps is comprised of five volunteer organizations:

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Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). CERT training encompasses a 20+ hour curriculum that covers eight topics: disaster preparedness, fire suppression, disaster medical operations, disaster psychology, team organization, search and rescue, and disaster drills. Citizen Corp and CERT are funded by FEMA grants, which usually are allocated by a state coordinator to a local governmental entity. Local jurisdictions have different procedures for distributing grant money. CERT teams can also be organized for a church or business.

Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is another program that is grant funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. The mission of the MRC is to "Engage volunteers to strengthen public health, emergency response and community resiliency." MRCs are made up of both medical and lay volunteers.

Neighborhood Watch is a program supported by the National Sheriffs' Association. In existence since 1972, the Neighborhood Watch program promotes awareness of criminal activity, and encourages the reporting of suspicious activity.

Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) is associated with the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The goal of VIPS "is to enhance the capacity of state and local law enforcement to utilize volunteers."

Fire Corps is the newest of the five Citizen Corps programs. Started in 2004, Fire Corps was developed "to increase the capacity of volunteer, career, and combination fire and EMS departments through the use of citizen advocates."

Rudimentary training in online FEMA courses may be required for most of these groups, but that will be dictated by your local jurisdiction. CERT training does require the completion of an introduction to CERT FEMA course online, called IS 317. All FEMA online courses can be accessed here.

All Citizen Corps programs are voluntary and free. And there is absolutely no excuse for individuals or businesses not to be involved in their communities. Volunteering with one of these organizations can go a long way toward improving the readiness of any family or business. Make a point of looking into these or similar programs in your community; the pay off is well worth the expense.

I must be honest and disclose that I am the Citizen Corps coordinator for Santa Rosa County Florida. I am a CERT instructor, a member of the Santa Rosa Medical Reserve Corps, I started a neighborhood watch in my neighborhood, and I am preparing to assist in the development of a CERT team in my community. If you think time is an issue, keep in mind that I am working on a doctorate degree, have two small children, a full time job, time to write these articles, and volunteer. If I do it, so can you. CI


About the Author: Daniel Hahn spent 22 years in the Army working in Special Forces before retiring and assuming the role of plans section chief for the division of emergency management in Santa Rosa County, FL. Hahn received his Masters in Disaster and Emergency Management from AMU and is working on his Doctorate in Business Administration with a specialization in Homeland Security Policy and Leadership from NCU. Hahn is the Citizen Corps coordinator for Santa Rosa and the administrator of the county COAD. He is also a member of the Continuity Insights Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at danielh@santarosa.fl.gov.