Fort Bend Ramps Builds Richmond Resident a New Porch and Ramp

3 10 2015

Article about good folks doing good works in Fort Bend County.  This article was written by Katie Stamy, and published in the Fort Bend Herald on September 24, 2015.

Linda Marin, 52, of Fort Bend County suffered from a stroke several years ago, paralyzing her left side and keeping her from doing what she loves most, spending time outdoors. Marin’s stroke left her homebound. The only way she could go anywhere was with the assistance of her husband, Romera Marin.

That was until Saturday when Fort Bend Ramps built Linda a ramp outside of her Richmond home and Pecan Grove residents presented her with a motorized wheelchair. Sixteen volunteers attended to help with the construction on Saturday and were able to rebuild the family’s porch as well as construct a new ramp in eight hours. Shereen Sampson, a Pecan Grove resident heard of Marin’s situation, posted on the Pecan Grove Facebook page, and was able to raise $600 for the woman. With the money raised, the motorized wheelchair was purchased and the remaining $225 was donated to the family.

Fort Bend Ramps

Mike Funderburke with Fort Bend Ramps, Richard Hyde with Fort Bend Ramps, Robert Gully (seated) from Pecan Grove, Mike Speck with Fort Bend Ramps, Lawrence Jackson from with Fort Bend Ramps, Carson Speck with Fort Bend Ramps, Shereen Sampson from Pecan Grove, David Davenport with Fort Bend Ramps, Christie Glaser from Pecan Grove, Walter Armatys with Fort Bend Ramps, Carrie Brown from Pecan Grove, Reesa Ramos from Pecan Grove, Ron Glaser from Pecan Grove, and Randy Shulze, with Fort Bend Ramps, assisted in the building of the new ramp for Linda Marin. Photo by Shereen Sample

According to Sampson, the smile on Linda and her family’s face was the most beautiful gift. “Part of what made this so great for the whole family was that (Romera) was having to bring (Linda) up and down the stairs,” said Sampson. “It got to the point that she didn’t want to leave at all.” Lazarus, the 13-year-old son of Linda and Romero, spent Saturday helping the team build the porch and ramp along side his father and grandfather, said Sampson.

For lunch, residents provided the builders with lunch including burgers, chicken, casseroles and cookies to show their appreciation.
The team began at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and finished at 4 p.m. “Fort Bend Ramps has it down to a science,” said Sampson in regards to the construction. “It was tremendous to watch them work. They have so many people, they have their own generator, and no mistakes were made.

“They normally just build a ramp but the porch was so unstable that they did that as well.” Carrie Dannemann Brown, Pecan Grove resident, also brought the family lawn chairs to have on their new porch. “(Linda) loves to be outside, that is one thing she talked about many times,” said Sampson. “That’s why this was so needed. She can go outside by herself now.”

“I think a lot of people assume that social workers are able to help every single person in need, but that is not the case,” she added. “I think there are so many other people in need that we need to keep our eyes and ears open for so we can help.”

Mega Rain Targets Fort Bend County

13 05 2012

Weather Blog entry from Mario Gomez, Meteorologist with KHOU, Channel 2 Houston is below.  This item was posted on May 12, 2012 at 11:15 PM.

We knew that heavy rain fell overnight in Fort Bend county. What we didn’t know is this could turn out to be the heaviest rain ever recorded this year by a volunteer weather observer. The National Weather Service conducts hundreds of training sessions for community volunteers to help fill the gaps where weather data is missing, especially in rural areas of the nation. The network of volunteers is called CoCoRaHS which stands for community collaborative rain, hail and snow network.

Early Saturday morning one of these community observers near Richmond recorded over 11″ of rain in his rain gauge making this the heaviest rainfall total ever recorded this year in the United States. The rain slacked off to about 6″ at Hobby, which is still a respectable 24hr rainfall total. The good news is that Sunday will be completely dry and even less humid with a mild 60 degree start and with highs reaching the 80s just in time for a Mother’s Day back yard BBQs. 

Weather Blog: Mega Rain Targets Fort Bend County

Fort Bend County responders test skills on March 3rd

12 03 2012

Last weekend, many emergency responders in Fort Bend County did not get a day off on Saturday.  Instead, on March 3rd, many were called to duty in the early morning hours.  A major incident had occurred in El Campo, in neighboring Wharton County.  The County’s Technical Rescue Team responded.  Response came from the Fort Bend Regional SWAT Team.  Fort Bend County OEM sent a Communications Trailer staffed by volunteer members of the County’s Emergency Management Radio Operators Group (EMROG).  Fortunately, this response was not to an actual incident, but, instead, the responders were participating in a Statewide Deployment Readiness Exercise.  The Fort Bend County Emergency Operations Center was activated also— all in support of the field teams responding to El Campo. 

Much of the response equipment used during the day has been acquired through homeland security grants.  The development of regional capabilities, like the Technical Rescue Team and the SWAT Team, provides critical services to Fort Bend County citizens on a daily basis when required.  However, when necessary, these assets can be sent to neighboring counties in the Houston-Galveston region to provide assistance not available in other areas.  For example, during the wildfires last year, Fort Bend County fire departments and the County’s Road and Bridge Department, sent apparatus to Waller and Colorado counties to fight the wildfires. 

Shannon Crabtree, reporter for the El Campo Leader-News, wrote an article about the activities faced by the responders on March 3rd as they arrived at the El Campo Fire Training Field.  Ms. Crabtree reported in an article published on March 7, 2012:

When the illusion “It can’t happen here” shatters, they’re the ones expected to pick up the pieces.Hundreds of those disaster responders rushed to El Campo this weekend for, what citizens can be thankful, was only a drill.

The scenario was one public officials have nightmares about – a chemical flooding a building’s air system, dozens dead, hundreds exposed, a hostage, a bomb, people trapped and even more in danger. In the drill, El Campo responders – police, fire and EMS – rush in first only to discover the situation is far beyond what they have the manpower or expertise to address.

Around 4 a.m., they call for help. The call was simulated – after all this is only a drill – but around 500 people actually got woke up by a ringing phone in the pre-dawn hours Saturday.  Most of those roused were from the Texas National Guard’s Joint Task Force 71 which mustered near Austin and then raced to El Campo Saturday with 67 units including a mobile decontamination station.

Then there were the members of the Fort Bend County Regional SWAT team and the Baytown Fire Department’s regional heavy rescue team, the Civil Defense team, Texas Department of Emergency Management workers, and a whole host of other law enforcement officers and emergency responders.

“We’re available to anyone who calls in the region,” SWAT Capt. Scott Soland said. “We got called at 4:30 this morning.” The SWAT team dealt with the hostage situation immediately after a hazardous materials team checked for unseen dangers in the air.

The goal of this weekend’s drill was simple.

“All we want to do is test to see if you can respond,” Texas Emergency Management Regional Liaison David Popoff told those gathered.

They all did – quickly by all accounts.  Nothing even remotely like the scenario played out at the El Campo Volunteer Fire Department’s Training Field Saturday has ever happened in Wharton County.

But that’s no guarantee for the future.  A quick flip through a national newspaper or a nightly news program shows just how quickly a small-town atmosphere can change from mild to madness.

“There’s a ton of resources available,” El Campo Police Chief Terry Stanphill said. “It’s comforting to know there’s that much help out there.”

The El Campo PD has an emergency plan, but a limited number of officers.  At some point, they would have to call for help as would the EMS department or the all-volunteer fire department.

“We’ve never had anything of a long duration,” Stanphill said. “The worst thing I remember is an ice storm. That shut everything down for 36 hours.”

Saturday was a drill.  “But if this had been a real event, we would have had more resources than we needed,” the chief said. “That’s good.

“And the volunteers really did a good job with this. Like Phillip Urbanovsky and Servando Chapa, but that’s not to take anything away from the rest. They did a wonderful job.”

The drill was a great learning experience for El Campo emergency responders, EMS Chief Jimmy George Jr. and Fire Chief Jimmy Nielsen both said.  “Overall, it was an incredibly great experience for us emergency responders,” George said, adding the drill showed local workers not only just how quickly they could be overwhelmed by a major event, but also how quickly they could call for help.

“There are people out there, resources out there to back us up,” the EMS chief said. “It’s good to know the state and federal government will be here.

“And the military is not just going to respond after the fact. They are going to respond and try to save lives.”

Collectively, the organizations participating in the drill are the Homeland Response Team for this FEMA region.  “This was a very educational experience for El Campo,” Nielsen said. “We found out there are a lot of resources from the state and other local entities that we can call upon if we have had an incident like this for real.

“I had no idea this level of help was available,” he added. “The state called in people I didn’t have any idea existed.”  The exercise taught local responders a lot about planning and utilizing available resources like the city’s recently-connected citizen messaging system, the fire chief said.

“This weekend was lots of education,” Nielsen said. “I hope we never have to use it.”

City of Simonton Holds Emergency Operations Exercise

11 05 2011

 Emergency preparedness is not simply a responsibility for large cities or Texas counties.  All jurisdictions, not matter what the size need to prepare for emergencies that happen locally.  In Fort Bend County, one only needs to look at the efforts of the City of Simonton’s Emergency Management Coordinator over the last seven years. Under the leadership of Lou Boudreaux, Simonton, a community of only 814, has undertaken preparedness activities which many larger communities have not completed.

Simonton understands the threats to the community, primarily flooding issues given its proximity to the Brazos River.  As the article notes, many of its elected officials and its citizens have completed various training designed to make the community safer in times of disaster.  Working in collaboration with Miles Tollison, Senior Planning Coordinator from the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management (FBC OEM), the City is developing Emergency Management Guidelines describing how the jurisdiction wants to meet its emergency management responsibilities.  

Doug Barnes, FBC OEM’s GIS Planning Coordinator, has worked with the Boudreaux to develop a set of maps which can be used by local officials and trained citizens to map damage that may occur following a disaster, like a hurricane.  Other preparedness efforts that the City has completed include developing memorandums of understanding with the neighboring City of Weston Lakes and Fort Bend County; procuring equipment to outfit a small Emergency Operations Center; working to identify necessary hazard mitigation efforts designed to prevent future damage; and, as noted below, procuring the necessary equipment to pump water from areas that might flood during an emergency.

As reported by FortBendNow staff on Monday, May 9, 2011, please read the article below which will tell you more about the substantial preparedness efforts being made by this small community located in Fort Bend County.

With hurricane season looming and bad weather always a threat, the City of Simonton recently held a preparedness exercise to ensure the community was prepared to handle a flood event.

The exercise, which lasted several hours, involved training 15 community volunteers to effectively and efficiently pick up, deliver, deploy, operate, take down and return the city’s trailer-mounted flood pumps.

The city recently agreed to coordinate flood pump operations with the Valley Lodge Property Owners Association, which is located wholly within the city limits. The agreement gave the association the responsibility for maintaining, staffing and operating the pumps. The effort will be led by board member Stephan Sear.

According to Simonton Emergency Management Coordinator Louis Boudreaux, the exercise showed the pumps could be removed from storage, set up on-site and operational in less than 50 minutes.

“A quick response is very important when it comes to dealing with an emergency,” said Boudreaux. “The volunteers did an excellent job in this exercise and showed a significant commitment to protect their community.”

Simonton Mayor Daniel McJunkin said the city was working with local organizations such as VLPOA to help protect the community.

“It’s not easy being a small city in Texas because the public’s expectation for emergency preparedness is high,” McJunkin said. “We have limited financial resources and no paid city staff to set up and run emergency equipment, but, what we lack in resources, we make up for with community spirit and preparedness.”

The mayor added the city had achieved an important preparedness milestone by partnering with community groups to take on important tasks.

“I am pleased with the turnout and with the outcome of the exercise. The volunteers learned about pump operations and the city has learned from the exercise as well,” he said.

Boudreaux said in addition to this exercise, the city intends to hold regular training events to prepare for other types of emergencies.

“Our primary concerns are the potential for hurricanes and river flooding. We are also preparing for how to deal with tornados, wild fires, chemical spills and other general emergencies,” Boudreaux said.

Boudreaux also praised the leadership Fort Bend County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Braun in helping the city partner with the other communities in the area to achieve better emergency preparedness. Simonton has also developed its own emergency action plan, which was created with the help of Alderwoman Sandy Bohannon. 

Simonton City Council Members, as well as a number of local volunteers, have also completed numerous online training courses provided by FEMA covering the “National Incident Management System,” which is a standardized nationwide approach to manage emergency events. The city has also become active in Citizen’s Emergency Response Teams and the Medical Reserve Corps program.  Simonton residents interested in volunteering can contact city hall at 281-533-9809.

FEMA Considers Changes to CERT

28 09 2010

Carol McKenna recently wrote an article, “Local Programs Adapt as FEMA Considers Changes to CERT,” for Emergency Management magazine.  The article was published on September 23, 2010 and provided thoughts from Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)  Coordinators across the Country on what changes might be good for the program.  The text of that article is found below, but let me take this opportunity to tell you what has been going on in Fort Bend County related to CERT.

Shauna Evans, the County’s CERT Coordinator, reports to me that the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management has trained over 400 citizens since implementing its training program in 2007.  Seven classes have been completed this year – including one in Stafford; two in the Fulshear/Weston Lakes/Simonton area; three in Sugar Land; and one in the Andover Farms/Fresno area.

As noted in the McKenna article, making preparedness training available and relevant to teenagers needs to be an important goal of furthering CERT Program growth.  Fort Bend County OEM agrees.  In December 2009, in conjunction with Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, a Teen CERT class of 23 was graduated.  In April of 2010, Shauna awarded graduation certificates to 16 Boy Scouts from Sugar Land.  Shauna and the County Emergency Operations Center recently hosted 63 Boy Scouts and leaders for an evening of preparedness information; an overview of the EOC’s capabilities; and an introduction to what CERT is all about.

Shauna is currently planning training and events for 2011.  If you are interested in learning more about the County’s CERT Program, please respond to this blog entry or feel free to contact Shauna at 281-342-6185.

Carol McKenna Article:

As FEMA considers changes to the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, local coordinators offer their own solutions. 

At the Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit on Aug. 12, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the agency was looking at ways to use CERT to increase the level of disaster preparedness education in the United States.

Fugate said he’s looking at increasing the relevancy of CERT training for young adults and high school students. “We’re also looking at are there ways we can take the CERT training and break it down, because a lot of groups have approached us said, ‘We think this is really great, but the attention span of our audience won’t get you there,’” he said.

The agency is looking at ways of implementing disaster preparedness education into the curriculum of the nation’s schools. “[The] Red Cross and others have built tremendous tool kits for children in the public schools and private school systems to begin that process early. But it’s not very consistent across this country,” Fugate said. “And I think, in any social context of trying to change behavior across a community over the long term, we know that if you’re not talking to different groups — particularly focusing on children when they are willing and impressionable on these issues — it’s hard to come in after we’re adults and talk about this stuff.”

On the Ground

Asked about what the federal government could do to improve the program, local CERT leaders pointed to the need for increased funding to continue training programs and equip volunteers, and an updated curriculum including an advanced module for students who complete the initial training.

Carol Willis, a Teen CERT coordinator from Sacramento who participated in the summit webcast, said national preparedness curriculum standards would benefit area students. “Teen CERT is good because it reaches some of the students in the schools, but it doesn’t reach all of them, and I really think there needs to be something that every student gets,” Willis said. “They may not be responders, but hopefully they wouldn’t panic and they would know what to do. And that is all we can ask of everybody is to be aware of what to do in a disaster.”

According to a CERT website, Teen CERT is taught to teenagers in high schools and the community. It also will help school safety teams during an emergency or disaster that affects the school.

Even schools that implement Teen CERT into the curriculum can find sustaining the program challenging. “What I’m finding that happens is that the teacher that teaches it then goes to another district or goes somewhere else and nobody picks it up,” Willis said.

That’s what happened to the program at Sacramento’s Natomas High School, which graduated a class of 30 students in March 2008. “It was our old activities director — she brought in the trainer, the kids got trained, we did the assembly, they had the packs [and] she then left. She’s not even at our school any more,” said Angela Herrera, the school’s assistant principal for student services.  

Natomas High School is currently working with the district office to restart the program, Herrera said.

Also, programs supported by grants can take a hit when funding runs out. “The situation I have right now is I was contracted to [the U.S. Department of] Homeland Security when I started Teen CERT,” Willis said. “That grant money is now gone, and so I’m teaching it on a voluntary basis at this point.”

Coordinators mentioned the turnover of CERT volunteers who take the course for a variety of reasons — including being able to help themselves and their families during disasters or being able to assist first responders — and the need to fill a gap in available volunteers.

One local government would like to put a Teen CERT program in the local high schools to fill future needs for volunteers during disasters. “We have several small communities in our county, for instance, and those people are already volunteering for the fire department or EMS service or something of that nature,” said James Fair, the Sumner County, Kan., emergency manager.“That’s a way for us to be able to have each of those communities prepared and protected,” he said.

Updated Curriculum

The Carnation-Duvall Citizen Corps Council in Washington state taught a CERT class to a group of teachers who requested it. It also offers CERT members additional training, including classes in the Incident Command System, Red Cross sheltering and ham radio as well as Fire Corps training and Neighborhood Watch programs.

Council President Kathy Brasch would like to see updated textbooks and a continuing education program specific to CERT. “I know individual CERT programs have started to develop their own additional training as well, but there is not a formal program,” she said. “Also, we’d love to see the latest curriculum. I know they’ve been talking about it for a number of years, but we haven’t seen the actual new curriculum and the train-the-trainer courses come out.”

Brasch said her program’s textbooks date from about 2000.

“I know they started putting together a new curriculum about two years ago, and it’s still in the testing phase,” she said. “I’ve been told that it’s supposed to be coming out in the next couple of months. So we’re looking forward to that.”

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has not yet developed a framework for disaster preparedness education in the nation’s K-12 schools. However, training students in disaster preparedness is an allowable expense under Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grants, said Sara Strizzi, a subject-matter expert with the DOE. The department recently announced that $28.8 million in REMS grants were awarded to 98 school districts across the country.

On Sept. 15, FEMA, the DOE and the Red Cross hosted the National Summit on Youth Preparedness to discuss development of standards for preparedness education curriculum in K-12 schools. A FEMA spokeswoman said a report on the summit’s findings would be published at a later date.

Fugate Says FEMA Is Reevaluating Future Of CERT

19 08 2010

From John Solomon and his Blog—- “In Case of Emergency, Read Blog:  A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness; posted on his site on August 18, 2010:

In response to a question from the audience at the Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit last week, Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate mentioned that the agency is doing some serious rethinking about the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program as it approaches its 25th Anniversary.

The questioner urged Fugate to move CERT from the Department of Homeland Security to FEMA’s jurisdiction. Fugate  was able to answer, with smile, “Done,” noting that he now oversees the program which trains citizen teams to assist during emergencies. That answer was easy. However, Fugate knows that determining and then making the necessary changes in CERT to make it most useful for FEMA, local authorities, the citizen volunteers and the nation will not be as simple.

Fugate said that FEMA is considering major changes in the program, including creating a shorter training course which could be offered to more Americans and significantly expanding CERT training for schools and other youth groups in order to better imbed preparedness into society for the long-term.

The CERT program faces a good news/bad news situation, according to Fugate. There are just not enough emergencies in which the civilian teams can take part in. Without activity, it is difficult to keep the citizen volunteers energized, interested and trained.

“Here’s the problem,” he explained, “People say I’ve taken all this training and there are no disasters. Well that’s good thing.” Maybe for the nation as a whole but not for the strength of the CERT program.

FEMA and local emergency management officials have to answer, in Fugate’s words, “a perennial question we run into: after CERT training, what’s next?”

And more importantly what’s next for the CERT program as a whole?

As Fugate correctly diagnoses, there is need for some changes in the program. Right now, in most places there is just not enough work for CERT’s to do. It is a theme that I also hear from members around the nation who contact me through the blog, and I see from my own experience as a CERT here in New York City.

But while CERT teams are not getting enough business, Fugate is bullish about a larger market for preparedness training among the general public.

“We’re looking if there are ways we can take the CERT training and break it up. A lot of [business and social] groups have approached us and said we think this is really great but attention span of our audience won’t get you there. [At present, the CERT training is 20 hours, usually taught over 10 weeks.] But if you could give us 2-4 hours and we could give you our group what could you put together for us in that time that would empower and train people not necessary not to the level of CERT.”

From my experience both serving and reporting on CERT, the idea of spreading its resources out more broadly through the community for adults and kids makes a lot of sense.

One question is how the government should organize this new horizontal model of citizen preparedness training. What should stay under CERT? Should these new ideas (shorter training for adults, kids) be put in another high profile civilian volunteer preparedness or resilience program?

I’ve always felt that CERT training is less about the skills you learn and more about awareness about the community and the various emergency authorities (and identifying citizen crisis organizers in advance). To me, CERT is just basic citizenship training for the 21st Century, which I think every American should get a chance to receive. I might suggest that the smaller reduced curriculum be called something along the lines of “Citizen Resilience Training”.

The overarching philosophy of CERT is terrific: take advantage of citizen’s desire to want to help in crises and their ability to be useful. I believe that interest is even more robust since 9/11, Katrina and with other threats on the horizon. (The rapid  growth of the CrisisCommons citizen technology initiative over the past year is just one example of how much public interest there is to assist in emergency situations.)

An extensive survey done by the Citizen Corps (which oversees the CERT program) found that almost two-thirds (64%) of Americans say they would be willing to take a 20-hour training class to assist their community recover from disasters. The 64% figure was striking to me, because it points out an interest of many Americans to become more knowledgeable in emergency preparedness/response. That’s not to say that two-thirds of the population want to join the CERT program, but it does seem to indicate that a lot of Americans would be amenable to some sort of disaster education/training — particularly it was held in their workplace, house of worship, social club, etc.

Now, there are some communities around the U.S. where CERT teams are more fully engaged with activities than others. When I asked readers  last month for their thoughts on CERT, Paul Garth from an Ojai, California team said it was up to the members themselves to go out and find things to do, which his group had. To some extent, Garth is right that CERTs themselves should try to develop ideas, but it can also be difficult because they are usually dependent on government emergency officials.

One question is whether the expectations for CERT service be more clearly delineated. There are no ‘cuts’ for anyone who passes the training, and then there are some members who go to every meeting and assignment and others who never show up. It can be difficult to keep a cohesive, engaged group going when some of the team — particularly when it involves sensitive emergency activities — are not fully committed.

It might make sense to have a better-trained CERT civilian group along the lines of another Citizen Corps program, Medical Reserve Corps, which is comprised of volunteer medical personnel. That might make government officials more comfortable in integrating CERT volunteers into its activities like a police auxiliary.

Fugate’s idea of broadening CERT-type training may be most useful when it comes to a younger generation. He believes that if the nation really wants to change social behavior on preparedness it needs to do so with the younger generation — who are not only more impressible than adults but are more likely to influence their parents and will also have a more long-term influence.

It would also be an opportunity to include preparedness into the curriculum in the schools where Fugate believes a culture of preparedness has the best chance of becoming imbedded. One useful historical model is the commitment to school-based fire education after the 1974 publication of the national “America Burning” report. In some cases, youth preparedness/CERT training can piggy back on these existing classroom programs.

Fugate mentioned that there are some excellent CERT programs for young people in parts of the nation. I recently wrote about interesting youth initiatives sponsored by READYColorado and the Colorado Division of Emergency Management, including the creation of a teenage ‘Social Media Response Team’ to help the authorities and the public during disasters. Eastern Michigan University has also taken leadership in developing Teen CERT programs in a number of states

I believe that a decision to expand CERT-type training in the schools would be welcomed on a bipartisan basis. In an interview I did with former Bush Administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last year he agreed that a key to creating a long-term prepared nation is to focus on schools and kids. In the discussion, he sketched out two suggestions  – a “minimum” and a “maximum” approach. The “minimum” would be “to get the fire management and emergency management people to come together to create a program to be exported to the schools on basic preparation.”

Chertoff’s “maximum” option is that there be a more substantive course developed for U.S. schools on planning and preparation, which would include teaching “basic skills”. It would almost serve as a very limited albeit useful national basic training.

“If you’re not going to have a national service then as part of graduation from high school there should be a course over a period of time that teaches you the kind of basic things you might need in an emergency,” Chertoff says, adding “It’s going to do two things. It’s going to create a cadre of more capable people, but it is also going to demystify the process of preparation. Most people are intimidated that they don’t know how to do it. They’re afraid of being embarrassed.”

As FEMA officials examine what to do with CERT going forward, I imagine they will be undertaking an analysis of the future need and demand. Though it is a very well-intentioned idea — and I have really enjoyed and learned from my CERT work — there may well be that there a limit to what moderately trained part-time volunteers can really do in the official emergency services world. Maybe the bulk of CERT volunteers who are willing to commit just to the basic training and limited participation would be better to be transferred to the disaster services unit of Red Cross chapters from around the U.S.. which is busier with fires and local emergencies.

I recommend that FEMA  should also reach out to some CERT team leaders/members in communities around the U.S. as government officials do not always know what is going on within the CERT teams. To me, civilian CERT members can best serve the community by being, in Fugate’s words, preparedness “ambassadors” providing information and guidance to their neighbors. When it comes to citizen preparedness, there is a real need for explanation and modeling, and CERT members can be hugely helpful in part as emergency management offices don’t always have the time always the inclination to do so. Further, the growth of social media platforms underscore the value of friend-to-friend, peer-to-peer education both before and during emergencies.

I received a thoughtful e-mail last year from the State of Florida’s former CERT coordinator Bill Firestone who served under Fugate in which he elaborates on the value of the “ambassador” role.

While it’s very unlikely that most CERTers will participate in a mass casualty triage or perform in pairs in fire suppression, CERTers will talk to their neighbor, participate in their children’s schools, attend neighborhood activities. Consequently, they can reach out to people that government and non-profit preparedness messages cannot reach or it is too expensive.

In my role as a “CERTer”, here in Florida, I am reaching out to neighbors and talking to them about the network of non-profits in disaster and the importance of knowing what services and assistance they can provide before and after disaster. Here in hurricane-prone Florida I have begun to send along the url for information about the importance of completing an SBA loan application and how that is tied to receiving additional disaster assistance. Most of my neighbors that have incurred damages to their house have been told about the low-interest loans following disaster, but not aware of the other benefits to completing the application.

Katy Fire Department Chaplain Selected To Serve On National Emergency Planning Task Force

13 06 2010

From an article recently reported in (John Pape, May 27, 2010):

Katy Fire and EMS Chaplain Robert Crutchfield has been tapped to be part of a task force charged with the development of a new facet of the National Incident Management System.  The National Incident Management System, or NIMS, is a system used nationally to coordinate emergency preparedness and incident management among federal, state and local agencies. It is also a key component of FEMA’s National Response Plan to major disasters.

Crutchfield will be part of a nationwide group responsible for the development of a new “resource type” category of NIMS called “disaster general reservist.”  Under NIMS, a resource type is a detailed, standardized description of a resource that can be deployed during an emergency. The disaster general reservist will be a new category of personnel, typically volunteers, that can be used in support roles such answering telephones, assisting with meal distribution and similar functions.

Among the issues the task force will be considering are training, qualifications, scope of duties and how the volunteers would be requested and assigned to disaster scenes.  Crutchfield noted volunteers such as CERT team members have already proven invaluable during emergency situations, including in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Likewise, they could serve in important support roles during other emergencies.

He also said he was looking forward to the task at hand.  “This is my first opportunity to contribute to emergency management at a national level, and I am literally jumping at the chance,” Crutchfield said. “I appreciate my colleagues for allowing me to contribute at such a high level.”

Crutchfield said his role would be “very representative.”

“I won’t be relying on my own experiences and expertise on this one. I will be aggressively seeking input that I can forward to the other members of the group,” Crutchfield said.  Among those he plans to ask for advice is Katy Fire and EMS Chief Marc Jordan, as well as Fort Bend County Emergency Management Director Jeff Braun.

In addition to his role as chaplain for the Katy Fire and EMS Department, Crutchfield is also the founder of Christ 4 Responders, an emotional and spiritual support network serving the needs of first responders.