Volunteers Try to Make Things Better in RI

I wanted to get this posted yesterday, but the past two days have been quite interesting and busy.  I’m really glad you came back and appreciate your patience.

Today we completed our CERT Train-the-Trainer class here in Warwick, Rhode Island.  This afternoon was the first chance since our arrival last Sunday when we could actually leave the hotel and do a little sightseeing.  It was a gorgeous afternoon and so we drove south to the shoreline community of Narragansett, Rhode Island.  What a picturesque community.  Our little outing really helped recharge our batteries.

For the past two days, we started out early and worked hard.  Each day was filled with lots of learning and activity.  If you have read any of my previous blogs that were written while I was teaching, you may remember that on Days Two and Three of training, we have our participants work through two student teach backs which allows them to demonstrate their instructional capabilities.  The material we covered during the past two days included both a review of the Basic CERT class as well as Instructor development.  I think most of our students, in all of our classes, really enjoy the instructor development units as evidenced by their evaluations.  They always ask for more.

Ready RI

In this class we had a husband and wife couple who live in the northwestern part of the state.  When I heard them introduce themselves at the beginning of class on the first day, I thought what they were trying to do with their local volunteer group was a unique story that I could share in my blog.

A couple of years ago several individuals, including “Kathy and Paul” were sitting around talking about emergency management and what they might be able to contribute to help improve collaboration within their local emergency management system.   Like most volunteers, they weren’t simply asking for something, rather they wanted to get involved and help.   “Ready RI” is the initiative that resulted from that discussion. As they were building the organization they looked at a similar faith-based model that is located in Blanco County, Texas.

“Ready RI” is a small volunteer organization in its infancy.  The group’s concept is to bring together well-trained volunteers that are able to be deployed, when requested, into a disaster area to help with tasks that might otherwise be performed by first responders whose efforts could be better utilized on more urgent matters.  The group’s functionality mainly lies in the areas of shelter set-up and management, pet shelter, animal rescue, and wild land search and rescue.  They see themselves as a volunteer incident support team that can be invited into a community when well-trained volunteers are needed.  They currently operate under a policy of not self-deploying.

Today, this small and informal group has no formal affiliation with any state or local government or public safety agency.  They are working to incorporate themselves as a 501(c) not-for-profit in order to help with their future funding.

The team currently consists of six members but has been as high as 12.  There is an application that new team members must complete for acceptance on the team.  Members are required to have Incident Command Training (through ICS 800) as well as Search and Rescue training offered by the Rhode Island State Police.

Like any other citizen volunteer organization, liability is a key issue for Ready RI.  Until they are invited in by an organization that has the appropriate liability coverage (i.e. workman’s comp), the group doesn’t have coverage, however they are looking further in to this.  As such, when they are invited in they support (work under the direction of) the department/agency that requested them.

I hope that as things move forward with citizen preparedness in Rhode Island, Ready RI will be able to reach out and establish key strategic relationships with state and local departments and agencies throughout the state.  Like CERT and the other Citizen Corps programs, this model of trained volunteers who are readily accessible when needed and who can support community needs following a disaster, can be a positive game-changing resource.  Best wishes.

Tomorrow, we’ll start our second class which is CERT Program Manager.  And, as I regularly do when we are on the road, I’ll leave you with a few pictures from yesterday and today.

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