CITIZEN CORPS CELEBRATES SUCCESS AT TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Launched by President George W. Bush during the 2002 State of the Union address as part of the USA Freedom Corps initiative to engage Americans in volunteer service, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on January 22 marked the tremendous success of Citizen Corps two years later.
In only two years, nearly 1,000 communities around the country, encompassing 40 percent of the U.S. population, have established Citizen Corps Councils to help inform and train Citizens in Emergency preparedness and to coordinate and expand opportunities for citizen volunteers to participate in homeland security efforts and make our communities safer. Fifty-two states and territories have also formed state level Citizen Corps Councils to support local efforts.
Said Secretary Ridge, ?Through Citizen Corps, we are building a grass-roots culture of citizen preparedness. It is critical that the public be prepared personally and work with their neighborhoods and communities to do the same.?
Supporting the Citizen Corps concept, a recent opinion poll shows that Americans are interested in volunteering to help their local community emergency service providers, such as law enforcement, fire, or emergency medical services, or with organizations that focus on community safety, such as the America Red Cross or Neighborhood Watch. Forty percent of those polled say they would be willing to volunteer. In addition, nearly two thirds of respondents (63 percent) believe it is important for neighborhoods to have a way to work together on emergency preparedness.
?President Bush?s vision of promoting citizen volunteers in homeland security is an integral part of Secretary Ridge?s citizen preparedness initiative. It has enabled us to increase our efforts to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies or disasters of all types,? said Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response. Brown also serves as the current chair of the National Citizen Corps Council.
While 44 percent of survey respondents say their neighborhood has a plan to help reduce crime, only 13 percent report having a neighborhood plan for disasters. Most respondents (70 percent) also say their neighborhood would be more likely to develop a neighborhood plan or group if a local government or community organization provided support. Through Citizen Corps and the Ready Campaign, the Department of Homeland Security is doing just that.
The Department?s Ready Campaign is a public education initiative that provides practical advice about how to be prepared for and respond to terrorism and other emergencies. The campaign asks people to take three basic steps toward preparedness: make a kit, make a plan and be informed. Citizen Corps helps deliver that message within the community, offers training and provides other opportunities for citizens to get involved with helping their community be safer.
On November 3, 2003, Secretary Ridge Announced $35 million in fiscal year 2004 grants for Citizen Corps. Suzanne Mencer, the Director of the Office for Domestic Preparedness, which administers these and other Homeland Security grants, emphasized the importance of this funding. ?These funds will help the state, local and tribal governments across the country provide emergency preparedness training for citizens and coordinate volunteer service opportunities for citizens to support our emergency responders,? said Mencer.