In Case of Emergency, Read This Blog

In Case Of Emergency, Read Blog

A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

“Citizen and Community Preparedness Act of 2008″

May 17th, 2008 · No Comments

A bill that would bolster the public’s involvement and engagement in their own homeland security advanced in Congress this month. This is particularly important to this blog as it is legislation specifically focused on citizen preparedness – in fact, ‘citizen preparedness’ is even in the name.

“H.R. 5890, the Citizen and Community Preparedness Act of 2008″ passed the Homeland Security Committee’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Henry Cuellar D-TX), by a vote of 8-0 and was referred to the full Homeland Security Committee for consideration.

Among its provisions is to formally authorize the Citizen Corps, a federal program,  created after 9/11 to help coordinate volunteer initiatives in community emergency preparedness as well as other activities aimed at helping people contribute to making their communities safer.

One of those initiatives is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program which would receive more funding under the bill. As a CERT member, I can testify to the program’s constructive role thus far and its great potential to further involve the citizenry in their community’s security.

FDNY-CERT Drill (New York City firefighters arrive to rescue NYC-CERT members, including some from my CERT team, playing the role of ‘civilians’ after mock chemical attack on a mock subway during a emergency preparedness drill earlier this month. It is one of the responsibilities of CERT teams to help first responders in their drills and then in the case of an emergency)

This bill is one step towards bringing more attention and funding to programs that engage the public in emergency preparedness. I am optimistic it is a subject that will be part of the upcoming presidential campaign discussion as both presumptive nominees have made  ‘citizen involvement’ and ’giving back’ significant thematic parts of their platforms.

The legislation would also create a pilot program to enhance citizen preparedness at primary and secondary schools, as well as on university or college campuses, something that I think is very important because a) preparedness is a generational effort and b) a great way to influence adult behavior is through their children.

The bipartisan support for this legislation underscores the political opportunity at present to boost citizen preparedness. And, at the hearing, the ranking Republican member, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) made a very illustrative point about the importance of citizen preparedness: ”Emergency responders make up less than one percent of the U.S. population, so the federal government has a big stake in making sure that ordinary citizens are as prepared as they can be well in advance of any crisis or emergency.”

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Tags: Congress

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