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California To Launch New Citizen Disaster Corps; Gov. Schwarzenegger Tweets Colorful 7P’s Preparedness Philosophy

June 28th, 2010 · 6 Comments

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger just announced that the state is creating the “first-in-the-nation Disaster Corps to professionalize, standardize and coordinate highly trained disaster volunteers statewide.”

Schwarzenegger colorfully tweeted out the news on Friday: “Check out our Disaster Corps…Because we believe in the 7 P’s. Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.”

Gov. Schwarznegger’s tweet announcement (photo credit: David Konig)

Amanda Ripley, who covered the creation of the CaliforniaVolunteers cabinet position, has a nice writeup, “The Navy Seals Of Disaster Volunteers,” on the Disaster Corps announcement in her Unthinkable blog:

Secretary Karen Baker, the woman who got that job on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s cabinet, is introducing the nation’s first Disaster Corps–a squad of 1,000 elite, well-trained volunteers who can can be deployed to disaster sites as soon as they are needed (without waiting for the soul-killing bureaucratic sign-offs that so often delay volunteer efforts after big calamities.)

“We needed to develop the Navy Seals of volunteers,” Baker says. OK, first of all, it takes some chutzpah to put the words “Navy Seal” and “volunteer” in the same sentence. Baker can pull it off only because she has actual power–the kind almost none of her peers across the country can claim. When I greeted her as “Secretary Baker” on the phone the other day, she laughed and said, “Call me Karen, or I’ll kill you.” But she (and by association all volunteers in the state) have experienced a surge in credibility since she got the cabinet post. “All of a sudden all phone calls are returned,” she says. “Instantly.” (Seven months after Schwarzenegger created the cabinet post, Gov. David Paterson did the same thing in New York.)

For two years, Baker has worked on creating the Disaster Corps. “We needed to up the game,” she says. Why? Because California is crowded with volunteers (one quarter of the population volunteers in some way.) But too few of them have the training, the experience, or, crucially, the trust of the authorities. “Everyone will say, ‘Yeah, we love volunteers.’ But the truth is, they don’t often use them because they don’t know what they’re getting.”

The new Disaster Corps will be made up of citizens who have received Department of Justice/FBI background checks and First Aid/CPR training, at a minimum. Many will have special skills (like language fluency or law enforcement experience) that make them particularly valuable for certain kinds of crises. They will be drawn from existing volunteer outfits like Citizen Corps, which means they will have worker’s compensation coverage already–an important pre-requisite for higher-risk disaster sites. The Corps will be supported by five local coordinators, full-time staffers in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and San Francisco counties.

The idea is to make it easier for the people in charge to find, trust and deploy volunteer assets when they need them. As part of the project, Baker’s office is also creating a large new database that everyone can access with critical information about which volunteers (from all organizations across the state, not just Disaster Corps) are available to do what. “Often in government, they know what the problems are but not what resources are available to them privately.” And Baker has set up mutual aid agreements so that volunteers can work across different counties. Not very sexy, but very important. All of this has been done with private and federal dollars, which is a good thing given that Baker’s state has no dollars.

Thanks to Jimmy Jazz for giving me the heads up on Amanda’s post.

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Tags: Preparedness Ideas · State Preparedness · Volunteer Opportunities · Volunteering

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sanitizer // Jun 28, 2010 at 7:18 am

    ‘a squad of 1,000 elite, well-trained volunteers who can can be deployed to disaster sites as soon as they are needed’…
    IMHE if you want elite it’s better to have professionals rather than volunteers; it’s why we have professional policemen, armed services, etc. the main exception is politicians and I don’t know anybody of right mind to ever refer to this sub-species as ‘elite’.

  • 2 Claire B. Rubin // Jun 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    We have a lot of smart, professional people in our locality and I am confident that they would do a great job as a volunteer cadre. I thing the CA concept is a good one; I would like to see it happen in my community.

  • 3 New California State-Wide Disaster Responders // Jun 29, 2010 at 1:45 am

    [...] Via incaseofemergencyblog. com [...]

  • 4 Mind Your Pees // Jun 29, 2010 at 9:07 am

    [...] I heard about this Tweet from John Solomon in this post. [...]

  • 5 Scott // Jun 30, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    In response to Sanitizer, if we had enough professionals to handle the disasters,we would not need volunteers at all. But, we can not afford to have enough professionals standing by waiting, a cadre of trained volunteers works. I would interested to see more about the program. Is it “super-CERT?”

  • 6 Ron Boron // Jun 30, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    We already have an agency in Michigan called the Michigan Volunteer Registry where trained CERT,VIPS,MRC and other Citizen Corp volunteers have signed up to be mobilized and deployed to any part of the State as needed or when disaster strikes. All have been cleared through the Michigan State Police (MSP) and trained in their own specialties and basic CERT training (20hrs)

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