More than 40 communities around the country are launching Citizen Corps Councils to coordinate volunteer support for emergency preparedness, prevention and response. The Councils will coordinate the work already being done by citizen volunteers in communities around the country to create a platform for strengthening and expanding those volunteer activities. Highlights of activities underway include:
Knoxville, Tennessee's Citizen Corps Council met for the first time on March 28, 2002, bringing together a broad-based group of community leaders who represent Knoxville's public and private sectors, emergency management agencies, and faith-based community. Knoxville's Citizens' Police Academy was one of the community models for the Citizen Corps' Volunteers in Police Service (VIPs) program.
Through the "Mayor's Matching Grant Program," seven Orlando, Florida neighborhood associations have created Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and purchased emergency equipment. Orlando also has a robust Neighborhood Watch program, as well as the Citizen Observer Program to recruit and train volunteers to help the Orlando Police Department reduce crime in neighborhoods.
Through Citizen Corps, Charlotte, North Carolina leaders are identifying ways to assist local law enforcement agencies and working to create a strategic communication plan for use in the event of a terrorist threat or attack - including development of a homeland security web page, amateur radio network, and a fax/e-mail network.
The Village of Arlington Heights, Illinois has a 20-year track record of using volunteers to support law enforcement and first responders. Arlington Heights already maintains a comprehensive network of mutual aid agreements and an active neighborhood watch program that includes 80 individual groups. They are now working to coordinate its efforts through a new Citizen Corps Council.
The City of Fort Wayne, Indiana and Allen County are working to create a Citizen Corps Council that will incorporate the activities already underway at the Fort Wayne Regional Community Policing Institute - a comprehensive program offering innovative community policing education and training to community members.
Santa Fe County, New Mexico is creating a Citizen Corps Council with the help of local non-profit organizations and community leaders who are working to attract more citizens to volunteer to make their community safer.
The call for Citizen Corps volunteers has already gone out in Placentia, California, where they have stepped up recruiting for their Neighborhood Watch, Community Emergency Response Team, Volunteers in Police Service, Police Explorers, and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services programs.
Orange County, California has a Citizen Corps Advisory Council involving agreements with 113 community affiliates, including city governments, school districts, and special jurisdictions, such as the airport and other transportation and water districts. Their Citizen Corps Council will also include two new programs: the Professional Services Reserves and Private Sector Terrorism Response Group.
Two weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Mayor Robert Walkup started "Operation Safe Tucson," which now serves as the local Citizen Corps Council. The Council has already met, and is coordinating Tucson's Neighborhood Watch and its Citizen's Preparedness Corps - a grassroots, volunteer group that is bringing emergency preparedness to every home, school, and place of worship in the community.
Mayor Anthony Williams has committed Washington, D.C.'s Commission on National and Community Service to develop its Citizen Corps Council. The Commission has already convened a meeting with local volunteer organizations and local officials to begin their planning activities, including their plans for Medical Reserve Corps and Volunteers in Police Service programs.
The City of Los Angeles, California's Citizen Corps Council will be working with a number of local programs including their Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Neighborhood Watch program, and SafetyNET program. Los Angeles developed what is now the nationally used CERT program in 1985 as a way of offering basic training in disaster preparedness and rescue skills in the event of an earthquake. SafetyNET is the city's volunteer neighborhood emergency training program.
The City of Laredo, Texas has been a leader in "mutual aid" between cities, partnering with Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico to increase first responder and volunteer collaboration to ensure the safety of their residents. Their fire and police departments already use volunteers to assist them in carrying out their duties in times of emergency and on everyday basis.
Several neighborhood-rebuilding programs in Chattanooga, Tennessee will work with that city's Citizen Corps programs. Recently, Mayor Bob Corker created the Strategic Neighborhood Initiative, a partnership between the City and 15 high priority neighborhoods that will be working to make those neighborhoods safe places to live and work.
The City of Redondo Beach already relies extensively relies on citizen participation to prevent crime and to prepare for emergencies, including CERT training, a citizens police academy, Neighborhood Watch, and a Safer City program, all of which promote the goals of the Citizen Corps initiative.
For more information regarding the Citizen Corps programs and activities or to obtain a copy of the Citizen Corps Guide for Local Officials, go to www.citizencorps.gov.