Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have acted with courage, compassion, and unity.To capture this spirit and to foster an American culture of service, citizenship, and responsibility, President George W. Bush has called upon all Americans to dedicate at least two years of their lives the equivalent of 4,000 hours in service to others. He launched the USA Freedom Corps initiative to inspire and enable all Americans to find ways to serve their community, their country, or the world.

Citizen Corps is the component of USA Freedom Corps that creates opportunities for individuals to volunteer to help their communities prepare for and respond to emergencies by bringing together local leaders, citizen volunteers and the network of first responder organizations, such as fire departments, police departments and emergency medical personnel. The goal is to have all citizens participate in making their communities safer, stronger, and better prepared for preventing and handling threats of terrorism, crime, and disasters of all kinds.

Citizen Corps Leadership

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.

At the state level, the governor will appoint a state coordinator for Citizen Corps to facilitate this locally driven initiative. The state coordinator will work closely with the local governments, other state organizations, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and other federal agencies to implement a successful Citizen Corps program for the state.

Key state responsibilities include: identifying needs and developing a statewide strategy for increasing the first responder and volunteer collaboration; developing statewide marketing strategies; matching Citizen Corps training needs with other major state training initiatives; reporting statewide accomplishments; and ensuring that Citizen Corps communities receive considerations for relevant grant funding administered by the state.

President Bush has requested more than $230 million from Congress in Fiscal Year 2003 to support and expand Citizen Corps initiatives.This amount includes funds to support the five national Citizen Corps programs, including nationwide CERT training, and grants to communities through the State to support local activities that foster preparedness programs and partnerships between the first responder organizations and the volunteers. If Congress approves this budget, these funds would be available in October 2002.

Citizen Corps Programs

Citizen Corps programs build on the successful efforts that are in place in many communities around the country to prevent crime and respond to emergencies. Programs that started through local innovation are the foundation for Citizen Corps and this national approach to citizen participation in community safety.

Currently three federal agencies, FEMA, DOJ, and HHS, administer five programs that are being promoted at the national level as part of Citizen Corps. These programs will be implemented nation wide by August 2002. FEMA coordinates the overall effort of helping communities establish local Citizen Corps programs.

The five national Citizen Corps programs are:

  • The Neighborhood Watch Program, funded by DOJ, has been expanded to incorporate terrorism prevention and education into its existing crime prevention mission. The goal is to double the number of groups participating in Neighborhood Watch by 2004. Additional information is available at the National Sheriffs Association website at www.usaonwatch.org.
  • FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program provides training in emergency preparedness and in basic response techniques to local trainers who in turn train citizens, enabling them to take a more active role in personal and public safety.The goal is to triple the number of citizens who are CERT trained, increasing the number nationwide to 600,000 by 2004. Additional information on CERT is available at www.training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/cert.
  • Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) is a program administered by DOJ. The program, which will be launched nationwide in spring 2002, provides training for volunteers to perform administrative and non-intervention policing activities to free up law enforcement professionals for frontline duty.
  • HHS will administer a community-based Medical Reserve Corps that will be launched in summer 2002. Through this program, currently practicing and retired volunteers trained in medicine will be able to assist during large-scale emergencies and will augment the emergency medical response community. Medical Reserve Corps volunteers can also play a productive role in meeting pressing but non-emergency public health needs of the community throughout the year.
  • Terrorism Information and Prevention System (Operation TIPS), administered by DOJ, is scheduled to be launched in late summer 2002 as a pilot program in 10 cities before spreading across the country. This program will enlist the help of millions of American workers who, in the daily course of their work, are in a unique position to serve as extra eyes and ears for law enforcement. Operation TIPS will provide training for these workers from selected industries in how to look out for suspicious and potentially terrorist-related activity and then in how to report that information through a toll free number.

There are also 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. These activities are also part of Citizen Corps.

Local Government Implementation

Citizen Corps is designed to be tailored to each community and will be managed at the local level by Citizen Corps Councils, or a similar entity, comprised of leaders from: emergency management and the first responder community; volunteer, community service, faith- and community-based organizations; educational institutions; medical facilities; business and industry; and the community’s neighborhood networks.

Each community that is implementing Citizen Corps should consider creating a Citizen Corps Council. This guide will help your community join the many others across the country that have already started Citizen Corps Councils in order to be prepared to fully implement the Citizen Corps programs in their communities.

The primary objectives of the councils are to:

  • Match the needs of first responders with the skills and abilities of volunteers to make their families, their homes, and their communities safer from the threats of terrorism, crime, and disasters.
  • Educate the public on safety, help citizens take an active role in protecting themselves from harm, and teach citizens what to do in the event of a crisis.
  • Spearhead efforts to offer citizens new and existing volunteer opportunities, educational information, and training courses to address crime, terrorism, and natural disaster risks.
  • Promote all Citizen Corps programs and activities across the community.
  • Capture innovative practices and report accomplishments that can be replicated in other communities nationally.
  • Survey the community to assess increased awareness and Citizen Corps participation.

Creating a new organization to start Citizen Corps is not required. If your community already has a strong team that brings together all sectors of your community, including first responders and volunteer groups, you may want to ask this group to take on the responsibility of promoting Citizen Corps and to acknowledge this group as affiliated with Citizen Corps. You are strongly encouraged to leverage existing resources and build on current successful programs whenever possible.

Benefits to the Community

Major disasters in a community can overload the capability of first responders, especially during the first 12 to 72 hours of the response. Having citizens who are better prepared to take care of themselves and others during times of crisis will allow first responders to focus their efforts on the most critical, life-threatening situations.

In addition, there are many tasks that a well-trained and organized group of volunteers could perform on an ongoing basis that would free up sworn officers, licensed health professionals, and professional firefighters so that they could focus more on immediate emergency response needs and less on the routine or administrative aspects of their responsibilities. Successful models of such activity exist throughout the country and are primed to be taken nationwide.

Citizen Corps will help citizens take a more active role in crime prevention, risk reduction, and emergency preparedness. It will bring together all sectors of the community involved in first responder issues and will enable them to establish ongoing working relationships and to work together in times of crisis. As a component of President Bush’s call to service, Citizen Corps will also help build a community’s sense of pride and cohesion.

 

I.CITIZEN CORPS

Overview

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.

  • The Neighborhood Watch Program, funded by the Department of Justice (DOJ), has been expanded to incorporate terrorism prevention and education into its existing crime prevention mission. The goal is to double the number of groups participating in Neighborhood Watch by 2004. Additional information is available at the National Sheriffs Association website at www.usaonwatch.org.
  • FEMA’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program provides training in emergency preparedness and in basic response techniques to local trainers who in turn train citizens, enabling them to take a more active role in personal and public safety. The goal is to triple the number of citizens who are CERT trained, increasing the number nationwide to 600,000 by 2004. Additional information on CERT is available at www.training.fema.gov/EMIWeb/cert.
  • The Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) is a program administered by DOJ. The program, which will be launched nationwide in spring 2002, provides training for volunteers to perform administrative and non-intervention policing activities to free up law enforcement professionals for frontline duty.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will administer a community-based Medical Reserve Corps that will be launched in summer 2002. Through this program, currently practicing and retired volunteers trained in medicine will be able to assist during large-scale emergencies and will augment the emergency medical response community. Medical Reserve Corps volunteers can also play a productive role in meeting pressing but non-emergency public health needs of the community throughout the year.
  • Terrorism Information and Prevention System (Operation TIPS), administered by DOJ, is scheduled to be launched in late summer 2002 as a pilot program in 10 cities before spreading across the country. This program will enlist the help of millions of American workers who, in the daily course of their work, are in a unique position to serve as extra eyes and ears for law enforcement. Operation TIPS will provide training for these workers from selected industries in how to look out for suspicious and potentially terrorist-related activity and in how to report that information through a toll free number.

Additional Citizen Corps resources include:

  • The Citizens’ Preparedness Guidebook, produced by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) with support from DOJ, provides current crime and disaster preparedness techniques, as well as the latest information on terrorism, to give Americans guidance on how to prepare in our homes, neighborhoods, at work, at the airport, in places of worship, and in public spaces.  The guide is available on the Citizen Corps website www.citizencorps.gov or by calling NCPC at 1-800-WE-PREVENT (1-800-937-7383).
  • Appendix A provides the website address of other federal agencies and organizations that have useful information relating to the Citizen Corps mission.

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.

 

II. CITIZEN CORPS COUNCILS

Organizing a Citizen Corps Council

Communities all across America already embrace the principles of Citizen Corps. There are many elected officials, business leaders, and involved citizens already doing their part to make their community a great place to live. Many communities also already have an organization that promotes public safety, disaster preparedness, and crime prevention in the community. No doubt, there is a strong base already involved in this effort in your own community. These activities are at the heart of Citizen Corps.

The Citizen Corps Councils will bring together leaders from the relevant sectors of your community to coordinate the Citizen Corps effort. 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. Each community should have only one group that is implementing the Citizen Corps.

Each community and region will have to determine its geographic boundaries and its own membership. Suggested membership of the Citizen Corps Council, or similar entity, includes the following:

  • Leadership from elected officials, such as the mayor, city council members, county commissioners, or the tribal government leaders;
  • Leadership from emergency management and from the first responder community: law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services, and health care providers;
  • Leadership from volunteer, community service, and faith-based groups, including a local VOAD group and a volunteer center, if you have one;
  • Leadership from any existing community substructure, such as advisory neighborhood commissions, wards, voting districts, water and sewer districts, or other groups that represent a large cross-section of the community; and
  • Leadership from major industries or other groups in the area, such as community leaders from educational institutions and school boards, the business community, environmental and transportation groups, including airports, and utility providers. Other representatives could be from specific segments of the community, such as the elderly, minority populations, non-English speakers, and local media executives.

The primary qualification to participating on the council is making a commitment to educate the public on safety, to help citizens take an active role in protecting themselves from harm, to teach citizens what to do in the event of a crisis, and to expand volunteer opportunities that will make the community safer.

You do not need to create a new organization to start Citizen Corps. Leveraging existing resources is strongly encouraged. If your community already has a strong team that brings together all sectors of your community, including first responders and volunteer groups, you may want to ask this group to take on the responsibility of promoting Citizen Corps and to acknowledge this group as affiliated with the Citizen Corps.

There may be an existing group in your community that includes many of the appropriate participants, such as local emergency planning committees, that could take the lead on joining with additional relevant parties to implement Citizen Corps.

There are a number of national organizations, such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, that could be key participants in your local management structure. If your community does not have local representation of these groups, you may want to contact the national organization to see how you can start a local affiliate.

However you choose to establish the local management structure, this group should be charged with managing all aspects of Citizen Corps at the local level and with bringing Citizen Corps programs and principles to residents of the community. And there should be only one group officially assigned this responsibility.

The purpose of the Citizen Corps Council, or similar coordinating group, is to develop a systematic, efficient, and effective method for providing public education, stimulating wide-spread participation, and organizing volunteer programs to increase the safety of your community. Having duplicative efforts or competing entities is not productive.

Depending on the size of your community, you may need to have a steering committee within the Citizen Corps Council and subcommittees to focus on particular efforts. Subcommittees could be assigned a particular function, such as marketing and communications, or a particular focus, such as K-12 education on emergency preparedness.

The Importance of Leadership

Leadership within the council is critical for success. This leader could be an elected community official, an executive with one of your community’s major employers, the head of your community’s economic development group, or a leader from the volunteer community. Because of the first responder’s role in the event of an emergency, it is suggested that first responder representatives not take the lead role for the council.

The most important qualifications for the leader of the council are the ability to motivate team members to reach your collective goal of making your community a safer place to live, work, and play and of providing opportunities for all citizens to participate; and a commitment to broad community representation. If the local elected official is not the operational leader of the council, it will be critical that he or she provide clear and public support to the council through public endorsements and be kept informed of council activities.

Responsibilities of the Citizen Corps Council

While this initiative provides tremendous flexibility for you to implement Citizen Corps in a way that best suits your community, some general responsibilities of the local organizing group include:

  • Creating an action plan to involve the community in prevention, preparedness, and response activities and to mobilize the community in a large-scale event;
  • Identifying ways in which the community’s volunteer resources can help meet the needs of its first responders;
  • Working with existing neighborhood leaders, or creating a neighborhood leadership structure, to design a systematic approach to educate the public and encourage Citizen Corps participation throughout the community;
  • Spearheading efforts to offer citizens new and existing volunteer opportunities, educational information, and training courses to address crime, terrorism, and natural disaster risks;
  • Recognizing all activities that promote prevention, preparedness and response training as a part of Citizen Corps and encouraging new endeavors;
  • Organizing special projects and community events to promote Citizen Corps activities and recruiting volunteers to participate;
  • Fostering a spirit of mutual support by working with Citizen Corps Councils in neighboring communities and jurisdictions to be able to share resources in times of need;
  • Capturing innovative practices and reporting accomplishments to the state coordinator for Citizen Corps; and
  • Surveying your community to assess increased awareness and Citizen Corps participation.

Liability Issues

Councils should consult with a local attorney regarding any risks or liabilities that might arise from its activities.Most local bar associations encourage members to provide pro bono (free of charge) services to worthwhile causes. A council’s potential exposure to liability for acts or omissions of its staff or volunteers will vary from state to state.

Individuals who participate in council activities should be advised of their potential risks of liability under state law as well. Some volunteer activities may be covered by so-called Good Samaritan laws in the various states, these laws protect volunteers who render assistance in limited circumstances. Councils may consider obtaining release from liability and similar instruments if the local counsel deems it necessary.

 

III. GETTING STARTED

Initial Meetings

Creating a Citizen Corps Council or asking an existing organizing group to expand their mission and take on this responsibility is an easy first step to making Citizen Corps an active part of your community. You may want to hold one or more brainstorming sessions, where council members can collectively identify goals for your community and develop a better understanding of the risks your community faces. Topics that the Citizen Corps Council might address can include:

  • Educating council members on the roles, responsibilities, and practices of the first responders, volunteer organizations, and any existing neighborhood organizational structure in the community;
  • Identifying the existing activities and resources within your community that support Citizen Corps principles;
  • Identifying volunteer groups and opportunities within your community that could assist in reducing risk or that could supplement resources in an emergency;
  • Creating a menu of volunteer opportunities in which community residents could easily participate or partnering with the local volunteer center, if you have one, to design volunteer recruitment strategies;
  • Assessing resources within your community that could be drawn on to support volunteerism and public education in your community;
  • Identifying possible resources to support Citizen Corps, including local private sector support and contributions from foundations and non-profit organizations;
  • Discussing opportunities to build public awareness and to educate the community about Citizen Corps opportunities within your community; and
  • Developing a wish list of additional resources that your community might need to support a comprehensive Citizen Corps effort.

 

Developing a Citizen Corps Action Plan

As you begin to assess your needs and resources, you should work toward developing a clear mission statement and an action plan. Your Citizen Corps Council action plan could include short and long-term goals, a community communication system for emergency warnings, and a community mobilization plan with a specific plan outlining how to meet these goals.

Short-term goals could include having working smoke alarms and emergency kits in every household by the time school starts again in the fall, having each business in the community practice their evacuation plans within a month, training all senior high school students in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or having Neighborhood Watch groups in all neighborhoods of the community. You may also want to target specific groups within your community, such as people living in high-risk areas, the youth population, and Americans with disabilities or disadvantaged populations.

It will be important for you to set meaningful, attainable goals, to make them public, to meet them, and then to recognize and celebrate your success.

Linking Local Activities with the National Effort

It will be important for you to link local activities to the national effort. Although you may have an existing organization take on this responsibility and not create a new Citizen Corps Council, it is critical that all activities at the local level that encompass citizen participation in emergency preparedness, response capability training, crime prevention, and skill-based volunteer programs related to community safety be identified with Citizen Corps.

A great way to get started is to have a public event to recognize the activities that volunteers, first responders, and residents in your community are already doing that relate to Citizen Corps. Explain that there is a new national initiative to link all these activities and to introduce other activities to promote personal and community safety. Make a commitment to help each resident in the community participate in Citizen Corps. Citizen participation can include:

  • Becoming better prepared and taking measures to reduce risk within their home, such as putting together a family emergency preparedness plan and kit, installing smoke detectors or elevating electrical appliances above flood stage, securing free standing shelving to a wall or strapping down a water heater;
  • Being a part of a Neighborhood Watch Program group;
  • Becoming a volunteer firefighter or emergency medical technician;
  • Volunteering their particular skills to help with community risk assessments; and
  • Volunteering with community organizations already active in disaster preparedness and response.

The goal is to include everyone in your community. One of your first steps to support Citizen Corps is to promote the initiative and to expand the range of opportunities available to the residents of your community. Other opportunities for Citizen Corps volunteers are listed in Appendix C.

There is no standard way to approach promoting your local efforts; each community is encouraged to be creative and to use the Citizen Corps message to promote participation. Your community may host community-wide Citizen Corps community preparedness days to challenge everyone in the community to put together a home emergency preparedness kit. Another may put the Citizen Corps logo on appropriate local websites. Another may use the local media outlets to promote local Citizen Corps activities and to educate the public. Another may focus on the school system to disseminate information. And some communities will do all of these and more.


Information Sharing

A critical part of making Citizen Corps a success is building a network of communities that are committed to engaging their citizens in making their neighborhoods safer, stronger, and better prepared for all situations. To facilitate this network, FEMA will provide a directory of Citizen Corps Councils. Through this directory you will be able to contact other Citizen Corps Councils throughout the nation and have a direct exchange of information with your counterparts. This directory will also enable your state and federal partners to contact you with updated information as the programs evolve nationally and to collect innovative local practices for national promotion.

As soon as you have designated a group to coordinate Citizen Corps in your community, please log on to www.citizencorps.gov/ccorps and register your Citizen Corps Council contact information by clicking on the registration link. In providing this information to FEMA, you will be agreeing be part of a list that will only be shared with other community leaders working to create Citizen Corps in their community.

National Citizen Corps Programs in Your Community

The current five federal Citizen Corps programs will be implemented nationwide by August 2002.

Right now, every community can start Neighborhood Watch groups. Guidance on how to begin is available from your local sheriff’s department, your local police department, or from the National Sheriffs Association. (Visit the National Sheriffs Association at www.usaonwatch.org for more information.) A strong network of Neighborhood Watch groups can also serve as a delivery system for other Citizen Corps materials, such as emergency communications, Community Emergency Response Team training, or a family preparedness checklist.

The NCPC has created a family preparedness checklist in partnership with Citizen Corps that is available on the Citizen Corps website at www.citizencorps.gov or by calling NCPC at 1-800-WE-PREVENT (1-800-937-7383).

The Community Emergency Response Team training program is a 20-hour course, typically conducted over a seven-week period. Training sessions cover disaster preparedness, fire suppression, basic disaster medical services, light search and rescue, team organization, and a module on protection against terrorist threats.

The training also includes a disaster simulation in which participants practice skills that they learned throughout the course. Your local fire and emergency medical services departments (EMS) may have a key role in bringing CERT to your community. Many states already have experienced CERT trainers who could come to your community and provide training. Soon, every state will have this capability.

VIPS is scheduled for a nationwide launch in spring 2002 and the Medical Reserve Corps guidance will be launched nationwide in summer 2002. Operation TIPS will be up and running in ten pilot communities in late summer 2002, with a national rollout to follow.

 

  1. AVAILABLE RESOURCES

Fortunately, implementing Citizen Corps in your community can be accomplished with resources that you may already have available. Volunteer agencies in your community and your volunteer center, if you have one, can help you better direct volunteer interest to Citizen Corps activities. There are many low-cost ways for local businesses to participate; by donating the cost of a publication, by sponsoring a Citizen Corps volunteer fair, by sponsoring training for employees or neighborhood residents, and by practicing emergency preparedness plans for the business. The federal and state governments will provide training materials and technical assistance to help you get started and to help you sustain the momentum.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that operates nationwide service programs, may make available to Citizen Corps Councils volunteers that participate in AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America programs. Many of these participants are already active in disaster-related programs with other voluntary agencies. Volunteers could serve to help communities establish a training and information delivery system in neighborhoods, schools, and businesses, and could help with family preparedness and crime prevention initiatives in the community or across a region.

Volunteer support and participation in Citizen Corps can come from a variety of sources. Encourage your council members to be creative when thinking about potential resources that exist throughout the community. Appendix A is a list of government, emergency management, and first responder community websites that may be helpful to you as you expand your volunteer base. Appendix B includes a list of questions to help your council identify possible resources, including people, materials, and financial.

President Bush has requested more than $230 million from Congress in Fiscal Year 2003 to support and expand Citizen Corps initiatives. This amount includes funds for FEMA, DOJ, and HHS to support the five national Citizen Corps programs, including nationwide CERT training, and grants to communities through the state to support local activities that foster preparedness programs and partnerships between the first responder organizations and the volunteers. If Congress approves this budget, these funds would be available in October 2002.

 

V. COMMUNICATING SUCCESS

Communicating success is a key element of sustaining momentum. It is important to share your success with the residents of your community as well as with your state and federal partners. By sharing ideas and practices that work in one community, similar actions can be embraced by other communities and can inspire further creativity.

Developing a strong Citizen Corps Council will require significant proactive communication with residents of your community. Identifying creative ways to get the message out about opportunities available through Citizen Corps, as well as calling your citizens to action and communicating success, will require an ongoing communications strategy that can include media coverage, events, and presentations.

You may want to consider forming a communications committee within your council that includes local media representatives, public relations and marketing executives, and talented spokespersons who will help you to effectively recruit and educate the members of your community.

The communications committee may want to consider:

  • Developing a presentation about Citizen Corps in your community that can be shared at meetings held by groups within your community. Once a presentation has been developed, council members can fan out to present Citizen Corps to community groups, local parent/teacher associations, volunteer clubs and other groups that are interested in Citizen Corps.
  • Planning a media outreach strategy that will tap into and develop relationships with your community’s local media to educate them on Citizen Corps. Media opportunities might include interviews with participants active in Neighborhood Watch, coverage of your local government’s proclamation of Citizen Corps week, letters to the editor, or meeting with the editorial board about Citizen Corps. Local media could also sponsor a regular newspaper or television spot to feature volunteer opportunities and Citizen Corps activities/success stories.
  • Designating contacts for speaking to the media and working with these contacts to develop a consistent message for promoting Citizen Corps within your community.
  • Incorporating Citizen Corps into newsletters and other publications developed by your community’s local government, Chamber of Commerce, or neighborhood associations.
  • Planning a community Citizen Corps fair to bring together specific volunteer opportunities in your community with citizens interested in contributing. By inviting a local radio station to sponsor it, they could also provide public service announcements in advance to promote the fair and broadcasting live from the fair on the day of the event. Your local volunteer center may be able to help arrange such an event.
  • Contacting members of Congress and their local staff to help promote Citizen Corps activities within your community.

You may also want to create a recognition committee to provide support and recognition to Citizen Corps volunteers. Your local volunteer center can assist you with ideas for appropriate public recognition.

 

  1. GOVERNMENT ROLES

 

Federal Government

Citizen Corps is a vital component of President Bush’s new USA Freedom Corps initiative, through which he wants to inspire every American to answer the call to service and to strengthen and expand service opportunities to protect our homeland, to support our communities, and to extend American compassion around the world. President Bush will continue to echo his call to service and encourage Americans to serve their communities through Citizen Corps.

Additional aspects of the federal government role in Citizen Corps will include:

  • Promoting Citizen Corps at the national level and providing a national message, a logo, and a brand;
  • Fostering state and community participation, overseeing progress, recognizing accomplishment, and providing opportunities for mentoring and sharing ideas and resources;
  • Compiling accurate information and developing training standards and training materials for Citizen Corps activities;
  • Conducting train-the-trainers courses to develop state training capabilities and providing on-line educational opportunities, as appropriate;
  • Helping identify volunteer programs and initiatives that support the goals of Citizen Corps;
  • Helping secure national partnerships to promote Citizen Corps throughout the country; and
  • Developing financial incentives and tie-ins with other federal programs to encourage local government participation in Citizen Corps.

At the national level, Citizen Corps is coordinated by FEMA, in collaboration with DOJ, and HHS and is supported by CNCS. In addition, FEMA is working with other federal agencies, national volunteer organizations, and representatives from first responders associations. FEMA’s regional offices will work with states and communities to help make Citizen Corps a success.

State Government

The responsibilities of state governments mirror those of the federal government and include the mission to encourage every community in the state to participate in Citizen Corps.

Local Citizen Corps Councils will be supported by a state coordinator for Citizen Corps. The state may also choose to create a state Citizen Corps Council to bring together a number of state, local, and community organizations to discuss opportunities for collaboration and ways to address the needs of communities across the state and to share innovative practices and ways to avoid pitfalls. Since this is primarily a local government initiative, it is critical that the state coordinator has a good working relationship with the local governments and serves as an advocate.

Key state responsibilities include: identifying needs and developing a statewide strategy for increasing the first responder and volunteer collaboration; developing statewide marketing strategies; matching Citizen Corps training needs with other major state training initiatives; reporting statewide accomplishments; and ensuring that Citizen Corps communities receive consideration for any relevant grant funding administered by the state.

An example of this is supporting 1-800-FIRE-LINE, a toll free number that interested citizens can call to learn more about volunteer fire/EMS opportunities in their community. Currently, the fireline service is available in only 30 states. Through Citizen Corps, 1-800-FIRE-LINE could be available in all states and territories by having volunteers staff the phone line and provide information.

States could also support Citizen Corps by developing relevant state policies and practices. To lend their support, governors and other state representatives could also promote Citizen Corps in public speaking engagements, press conferences, and media events.

VII. CONCLUSION

We have experienced many changes as a nation since September 11, 2001. We are now more aware of our vulnerabilities, more appreciative of the freedoms we are protecting, and more understanding that we have a personal responsibility for the safety of our families, our neighbors, and our communities. Citizen Corps was created to engage all Americans in making our communities safer, stronger, and better prepared for any situation.

This is an exciting time in our nation’s history. We have the opportunity to reinvigorate our national identity and to build an American culture of service, citizenship, and responsibility. We must not miss this opportunity to harness the innumerable acts of kindness taking place in our communities everyday and to make them a part of this profound cultural change.