Welcome to Day Two of training here in Salt Lake City

Utah Citizen Corps

Joining us in class this week is Mr. Jeff Johnson who is the State Citizen Corps Coordinator for the State of Utah.  I had the opportunity to visit with Jeff for a few minutes today and listen to his insight about one of the strongest Citizen Corps (or CERT) programs in the country.

Jeff was appointed the Utah State Community Emergency Response Team Coordinator in August 2009 as the program transitioned from the Utah Commission on Volunteers to Utah Homeland Security. In January of 2010 Jeff was appointed as the Program Manager of the State Citizen Corps, to coordinate the National Five Pillar Program. Jeff was also been appointed as the Co-Chairman of the Community Preparedness Committee of the Salt Lake Urban Area Security Initiative.

Q:  What’s been the path for Citizen Corps in the State of Utah?

A:  Citizen Corps was established in Utah in 2002 pursuant to President George Bush’s Freedom USA Freedom Corps mandate. Several of the components, such as Neighborhood Watch and Community Emergency Response Teams were already operating in a robust and vigorous manner. Citizen Corps has continued to grow and expand in the State of Utah since the national inception. All five pillars of Citizen Corps (CERT, Volunteers in Police, Fire Corps, Neighborhood Watch, and Medical Reserve Corps) exist and are functioning throughout various areas of the State. There are currently 65 registered Citizen Corps Councils in Utah on the National database. Pursuant to a Utah legislative mandate, Medical Reserve Corps are attached to every Regional and County Health Department in the State. Neighborhood Watch programs exist in nearly all the County Sheriff and City Police Departments. Volunteers in Police Service programs are growing rapidly in the State with more than a dozen solid programs operating. Fire Corps is also being embraced by Fire Departments.

Utah is a volunteer state and local governments are recognizing the value of volunteers during times of crisis. Training, educating and organizing volunteers before the day they are needed is a message being embraced by local governments and agencies.

Citizen Corps has been the perfect avenue for citizens to step up, volunteer and give back to their communities. Citizen Corps is a valuable tool in the preparedness efforts throughout the state, and with valued recognition continues to grow exponentially.

Q:  Give me an example of what makes the Utah CERT Program unique?

A:  Since the inception of the Community Emergency Response Team program in the State of Utah, over 63,000 citizens have taken the training. With the launching of a new CERT Team in Rich County this year, all 29 counties in the State have an operating CERT Team. Utah leads the nation in volunteerism, with 74% (sic) of adult residents volunteering in some form or fashion. There are 82 nationally registered CERT programs in the State of Utah, ranging from large metropolitan teams of more than 4000 team members to rural teams of just a dozen local residents volunteering in small and isolated farming communities. There are communities in the State that have CERT trained 10% of their residents. In these communities, one in ten citizens has volunteered, completed the CERT training and is actively involved in their community’s CERT Team. We are constantly seeing a steady influx of citizens volunteering to assist with the CERT and Citizen Corps missions.

Q:  What’s the future look like for Citizen Corps and CERT in the State of Utah over the next few years?

A:  There are many avenues that are expanding for Citizen Corps programs in the State of Utah. This past year the Volunteers in Police Service Program was actively presented to the Utah Chief of Police Convention, as was the Fire Corps program to the Utah Fire Chief’s Winter Fire School and Convention. With diminishing budgets, increasing workloads and burgeoning community responsibilities, many agency administrators are seeing more and more value in including citizen volunteers in the solution. Citizens want to make their communities better and safer places to live. Almost invariably, citizens from every community in the state volunteer during a crisis and/or incident and want to be part of the mix in solving the problems on “That Day”. Citizen Corps provides smart, sensible and well established avenues to train, educate and organize these volunteers prior to the day their community needs that service.  A group of trained and educated volunteers who are called upon, or arrive, to assist with skills and knowledge, along with organization and a command structure and communications are priceless on “That Day”. Especially, compared to a group of spontaneous volunteers who arrive to accomplish the same task and missions. Pursuant to the realities and understandings, Citizen Corps has a strong and steady mission base to continue to organize and train volunteers in the State of Utah.

The power of Networking

Yesterday, I wrote about how several of the students in our class are well-seasoned CERT Instructors and in some cases Program Managers.  At the same time we also have folks who are new to the program.  As a result, we worked with Jeff Johnson to offer students the opportunity to network during the lunch-hour today and participate in a facilitated “Peer knowledge exchange” in an effort to leverage their collective experience.  During the hour-long discussions, primarily were centered on two topics … creative ways to generate funding beyond grants, and how to utilize CERT teams within the community.

Getting Prepared In a Year

Even though we are traveling this week, let’s continue on our journey of building our own preparedness.  With this blog, we’ll be making our eighth stop along this journey to preparedness.  So, let’s move on shall we?   Here’s what you can do now to add to your preparedness kit:

First Aid Supplies:

  • scissors
  • tweezers
  • antiseptic
  • thermometer
  • liquid hand soap
  • disposable hand wipes
  • a sewing kit
  • also, extra eyeglasses (if needed)

Things to Do:

Place a pair of shoes and a flashlight under your bed so that they are handy during an emergency.

 

OK – so there you have it; another great day today.  Come back tomorrow when we start our CERT Train-the-Trainer class and we’ll be in the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

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