Funded by the Homeland Security Department, the Citizen Corps is composed of five different branches; Community Emergency Response Team, Volunteers in Police service, Fire Corps, Medical Reserve Corps and the Neighborhood Watch Program.
"America will never be the same after 9-11. After 9-11, we found the First Responders really needed support. They were really short handed and when they could've been saving a life, they were out doing other things," says Rosalyn Martinez. Martinez is the Emergency Operations Planner for the South Plains Association of Governments or SPAG. She's in charge of organizing the South Plains Citizens Corps program, a national program initiated by President George Bush. "He wanted to capture the spirit of volunteerism so he decided citizens corps was wonderful way for citizens to prepare for disaster."
|Making a Kit for an Emergency Situation|
That is where the focus is beginning on the South Plains, disaster preparation. Sgt. Mike Allen says, "We find ourselves thinking, this may not happen but it will someday." Sgt. Allen, a Plainview Police Officer is the Director of the Community Emergency Response Team or CERT on the South Plains. Allen says, "This program is designed to where citizens can come out and help emergency responders."
CERT volunteers will be trained to respond to all types of disasters, from natural disasters like the tornado that hit Lubbock in 1970 or the one that struck Happy in 2002. Allen says, "The plan is to train people to do what they realistically are going to be doing in the first place. Most people are going to be out in their neighborhoods helping friends, helping neighbors and doing good. Through the process we will give them a way to coordinate their efforts with emergency responders, people already at hand and make it a lot more efficient and hopefully keep people from becoming a part of the problem."
Volunteers will learn how to set up command posts on the scene of a disaster, undergo training skills such as light search and rescue, first aid and basic fire suppression. Martinez says, "When the time comes, there won't be any chaos and we will be able to help someone save a life."
The goal is to work with first responders to make disaster response more effective and safe. Martinez says, "We love our children. We love our neighborhoods and we want everyone to be safe."
|What You Can Do to Prepare for Disaster|
Right now, Plainview is looking for CERT volunteers in Hale County. An information session is set for January 18, Tuesday at 7 p.m. It's in the basement of the Unger Memorial Library, 825 Austin in Plainview. You can also call Sgt. Mike Allen with the Plainview Police Department at (806) 296-1182. If you live in Lubbock and want to learn more about the CERT program or any of the Citizen Corps opportunities, call Rosalyn Martinez at SPAG at (806) 762-8721.