The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document
Citizen Corps Guide Book: Citizen Corps

Citizen Corps


During his 2002 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush called upon every American to commit at least two years of their lives – the equivalent of 4,000 hours – to the service of others. Through the USA Freedom Corps, he wants to help every American answer that call to service by strengthening and expanding service opportunities to protect our homeland, to support our communities, and to extend American compassion around the world.

Coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Citizen Corps is the component of the USA Freedom Corps that focuses on opportunities for people across the country to participate in a range of measures to make their families, homes, and communities safer from the threats of terrorism, crime, and disasters of all kinds. Citizen Corps also brings together a community’s first responders, firefighters, emergency health care providers, law enforcement, and emergency managers with its volunteer resources.

Citizen Corps will help people across America take a more active role in crime prevention, support the emergency medical community, and be better trained in a wide range of emergency preparedness and disaster response activities. The events of this past year have motivated many Americans to want to help others more and to strengthen their communities. Citizen Corps offers the means for citizens to help make our communities safer, stronger, and better prepared and to answer the President’s call to service.

Components of Citizen Corps

The Citizen Corps effort will be coordinated at the local level by Citizen Corps Councils, or a similar coordinating body, which will bring together leaders from the relevant sectors of your community. The purpose of the council is to have all decision makers at the table to manage existing volunteer resources, to leverage mutually supportive endeavors among the represented groups, and to direct the overall local plans to implement Citizen Corps in the community.

Additional explanation of the Citizen Corps Councils is provided in Section II.

Current National Programs

Currently, there are five federal programs that are being promoted at the national level to be implemented locally as part of Citizen Corps. The long-term goal is to have every community offer each of these programs to its residents and those who have had special training or work in selected industries.

Additional Citizen Corps resources include:

Other Activities

There are many other opportunities for participating in Citizen Corps. There is a vast array of educational and volunteer activities already underway across the country that focus on making communities safer, stronger, and better prepared. They can be either interest-based programs or broad, community-wide initiatives. If your community participates in such activities, you may choose to integrate these efforts into the local Citizen Corps right away. Examples could include:

  • Local activities that are similar to Neighborhood Watch, CERT, or VIPS, but may have different names in your community;
  • Family preparedness materials being taught and distributed in neighborhoods, in the workplace, and throughout the school system;
  • Community, faith-based, and youth programs that establish neighborhood support networks and disseminate disaster preparedness educational materials and preparedness kits to disadvantaged, elderly, non-English speaking, and persons with disabilities;
  • Programs that involve volunteer medical professionals in an organized response to emergencies, such as those administered by the American Red Cross;
  • Volunteer amateur radio operators serving as reserve communications experts in times of crisis;
  • Volunteer engineers and engineering students performing structural analysis on critical infrastructure, lifelines, schools, and at-risk buildings;
  • Programs for volunteers to participate in projects to reduce the damage to schools, hospitals, and other public buildings from known hazards in your area, such as floods, tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes;
  • Community and family disaster preparedness efforts conducted by established volunteer groups such as local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and volunteer centers, or community service organizations, churches and faith-based organizations already active in your community;
  • Volunteer fire departments and emergency medical teams;
  • Programs supported by the local Chamber of Commerce to train business owners and employees on disaster preparedness and emergency response measures;
  • High schools and college community service groups that promote Citizen Corps principles; and
  • Volunteer participation in developing a community communications system for the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System.

Every community is different. Citizen Corps calls on your community’s creativity and inventiveness to develop other programs or activities that work in your area and that encompass all sectors of your community. Successful programs or approaches to citizen participation that start in one community can spread nationwide through the Citizen Corps network.

Benefits to your Community

Securing our safety and freedom requires that we all work together. Every American has a critical role to play. Major disasters in a community can overload the capability of first responders, especially during the first critical 12 to 72 hours of the event. Citizen Corps will provide the community with a well-trained, readily available pool of local people who know their community and who can help during this critical time when outside assistance may have not yet arrived.

On a day-to-day basis, your council will help citizens take a more active role in crime prevention, risk reduction and emergency preparedness. Citizen Corps Councils and the programs they oversee will make your community a safer, better place to live. Specific benefits include:

  • Supplementing a community’s professional police, fire, emergency management, public health, and public safety capabilities where appropriate, especially in times of emergency;
  • Giving the residents of your community a greater sense of security, responsibility, and personal control;
  • Showcasing your community’s efforts in crime prevention, public safety, emergency medical response, risk reduction and mitigation practices, emergency preparedness, and emergency response as part of the national Citizen Corps initiative;
  • Bringing together the volunteer and the first responder communities to promote the concept that everyone has a role in making their community safer, stronger, and better prepared;
  • Demonstrating your leadership and your personal commitment to the safety of your community;
  • Building community pride and patriotism; and
  • Preparing us all for the vital role of caring for ourselves and others in times of crisis.

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