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Ways to Volunteer in Your Community for Disaster Preparedness
Citizens on Patrol
Citizen Fire Academy
CERT – Community Emergency Response Team
CERT programs are probably the best hands-on program you can become involved in.
“CERT educates individuals about disaster preparedness for hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. Using training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT volunteers can assist others in their community following a disaster when professional responders are not immediately available to help. CERT volunteers are also encouraged to support emergency response agencies by taking an active role in emergency preparedness projects.” [FEMA-CERT]
There are continued training classes and CERT is called out for a variety of causes during the year. In our area, after some devastating tornadoes, CERT was called in for search and rescue, clean up, and more. The teams are active in community awareness of individual preparedness as well as emergency response. Seeing the set up of our local CERT during the Emergency Preparedness Fair this month, we can’t wait for our training to start!
Ham Radio Clubs
Ham radio isn’t just to sit around and ping other radio operators around the world and put a stickpin in your map for contacts. In emergency preparedness, they offer the ability to have communications in a world where our normalized means of communications no longer work. They also offer the ability to help emergency responders coordinate in disaster locations.
Back in the 1979, a group of Ham radio operators (my Dad included) traveled from the North Texas area to Wichita Falls to help with disaster relief after Terrible Tuesday, a day when a series of large tornadoes hit the area When there were no communications available through regular telephone lines, the Ham operators were able to be the voice for those in need and coordinate help.
Medical Response Teams
Whether you are a medical professional or a lay person, the medical response team is an organization where you can volunteer your time during a disaster and offer medical assistance for the days following said disaster.
From offering vaccine clinics, to emergency medial assistance to door-to-door response, there are jobs for all walks of life. Many areas offer programs where you can be trained with FEMA courses and local groups to assist in a variety of disaster situations.
First Aid Training
The American Red Cross or the American Heart Association offer CPR training. Your local parks and rec. may offer first aid training, or you can even enter into basic training within your local community college system. Having trained in basic first aid skills will help your community greatly if someone is in need and you can help! (LEARN MORE HERE).
Another benefit of first aid training is simply being there to help a family member to take the burden off the emergency response teams of your area. If you know these basic first aid skills, chances are you won’t need to call the emergency responders, and they can be available for someone else.
Disaster Relief Organizations
Become a volunteer for Samaritan’s Purse or the American Red Cross volunteer, a religious organization or even something like the Cajun Navy from the recent floods in Louisiana, you are offering your help to your local area (or even further depending on the need).
Civil Air Patrol
Created the week before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the Civil Air Patrol is a great way for those with flying skills to continue to volunteer their services for emergency relief. From search and rescue, to flying aid to need areas, CAP can provide assistance when local resources are devastated. This is a program that is an auxiliary program to the US Air Force and isn’t just for pilots! Their CAP cadet program is great for the younger crowd, too!
Meals on Wheels
Did you know that more than 40% of all deaths during weather disasters are people aged 65 and older, and most senior citizens aren’t prepared for even the most basic of emergency needs? Meals on Wheels is an organization that helps our seniors day to day who can’t feed themselves with a hot meal, but they also are an organization that can help in disaster relief for the elderly, too.
The program prepares seniors with extra meals when inclement weather is expected in case their drivers cannot make deliveries during the period. There are also other ways that volunteers can help with safety checks and more. This is a great way to help a community that is growing in need on a daily basis, as well as helping in an emergency.
Community Food Banks
Working in a food bank before a disaster is the greatest way to help during a disaster. Helping people in your community when they need a hand-up keeps them from being a burden on more formalized government programs. Working with the food bank program also allows your community to have resources for post-disaster times when food may be scarce for families in the area.
I have volunteered at our local food pantry for a few years. It is an incredibly rewarding and frustrating experience. We are able to help families survive their own personal disasters and get back on their feet, yet it is sad to see how many families are in need in our country.
Become a Storm Spotter
Storm Spotters are trained and certified citizens who assist the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) with weather events on the ground. While your local news organization can use radar to see what’s happening in the clouds, often they can’t see what’s happening directly on the ground without folks being there to see.
Did you know that many radar systems can see a rotation in the cloud, but can’t know if the funnel has actually reached the ground without sophisticated equipment? Newer radar can see debris fields in the radar, yet still may not be able to know exactly what is happening. That’s where storm spotters come in.
They are not the same as the tornado chasers you may be used to seeing on Discovery Channel. You can find out more about the training I did here.
Assist Your Neighbor
While this is not an ‘organization’ to volunteer for, the act of being available to help a neighbor in need has ramifications greater than just with your neighbor. Not only will you be able to step up and give them immediate care in a time of crisis for them, you are also allowing the first responders to focus where their need is most immediate.
It seems trite, but donating blood is a way to help your community in a time of wide spread disaster as well as an emergency for a single individual. Not only does your donation help someone in a crisis at a particular moment, it helps keep blood blanks full for localized disasters and emergencies. It’s something you can do year-round to help.
Start a Neighborhood Preparedness Group
Get together with your neighbors to find ways that you can prepare your neighborhood. Start a phone tree to contact members quickly (both work and home numbers), gather resources, catalog skill sets, form community watches and more. For some, this may be seen as a security threat to allow anyone else to know things about your personal preparedness plans, but you don’t have to disclose everything you do for your family. Helping everyone else in your neighborhood may ultimately help you in the long run, too!
Prepare Yourself and Your Family
And before you begin thinking into the community – are you prepared? If not, START HERE.
The best way you can help your community in an emergency situation is not to be a burden on the public resources in the first place.
Want more information about where you can volunteer? Check this volunteer match from The American Red Cross.