Recovering from a disaster can be a daunting task, for affected citizens and emergency aid workers alike. The road back to normalcy can take a long time and is often very confusing.
Central County Fire & Rescue has elected to begin the Community Assistance Program, a small-scale program that will provide timely assistance for both its residents and emergency workers during local crises and emergency responses.
This program fills a gap in service that was previously provided by an outside agency, which has independently chosen to withdraw its support in our area. This withdrawal of service has resulted in increased reliance on distant aid sources and a correlative increase in response times to levels we deem unacceptable for serving our citizens and emergency workers.
Volunteers for the program will provide canteen service to firefighters and victim assistance to families affected by fire or other disasters.
PURPOSE & MISSION
The Community Assistance Program has been created to:
- Provide immediate hydration and nutrition needs when required by emergency workers, especially those performing difficult work for long hours, sometimes in inclement weather; and
- Provide assistance for disaster victims to help them begin their recovery process.
This assistance may include, but is not limited to:
- Temporary shelter
- Referral(s) to other resources for longer-term needs
The Community Assistance Program will rely on volunteers within the CCFR District interested in helping the fire department, disaster victims and the community in general. CCFR firefighters are also eligible to volunteer during their time off.
As of the Spring of 2015 CCFR is currently seeking 12-15 volunteers to staff this program, which will ensure adequate coverage whenever an emergency may occur.
EXPECTATIONS & REQUIREMENTS FOR VOLUNTEERS
CCFR has cultivated very high standards for safety and professionalism when dealing with the public or emergency workers on scene, standards which its volunteers are also expected to uphold.
To that end:
- Background checks and drug testing of potential volunteers will be required.
- A valid driver’s license and auto insurance will be required.
- Volunteers should be able to lift 40lbs without injury.
- There will be an established ranking system to identify experienced volunteers who can manager responsibilities without further guidance.
Incidents can occur any day of year, at any time of day. Volunteers may be asked to assist during periods of inclement weather and should anticipate being called into service during periods of extreme heat, cold, wind and/or precipitation.
Volunteers should be aware that:
- Incidents usually last anywhere from an hour to six hours or more.
- There may be occasional exposure to drifting smoke.
- Within the “warm zone” (active operations area, but NOT within a burning structure) there may be dangers from firefighter activity, water from hoses, debris on the ground, etc.
- AT NO TIME will volunteers be expected to enter any dangerous areas on scene.
Volunteers will be organized into “duty groups,” each with responsibility for responses during specific times. However, it is understood that volunteers are just that — volunteers — and that they have lives outside being members of the Community Assistance Program.
Volunteers are not required to respond during their scheduled “on duty” time; conversely, volunteers not “on duty” are welcome to respond if an emergency should arise.
Volunteers may be asked to perform exit interviews with available disaster victims for quality assurance purposes.
Volunteers will be expected to complete a minimum number of training hours before they are officially accepted into the program. This training will prepare them to perform the duties required, as well as familiarize them with scene-safety issues.
Graduates of CCFR’s Citizen Fire Academy will have a tremendous benefit of understanding of fire department operations, and therefore that program is highly recommended to interested volunteers.
The Community Assistance Program will utilize CCFR department resources to provide aid in their community. These resources may include:
- A marked fire department vehicle to transport supplies and personnel.
- A trailer designed for the temporary securing of disaster victims’ personal belongings until another secure storage can be located.
- This trailer will be stocked with materials that can be utilized by victims to help with their recovery (cleaning materials, flashlights, storage containers, etc.)
- Cambro coolers, ice, potable fresh water, hot water (coffee, hot chocolate, soup), light snacks, associated extra materials (paper towels, sweetener, creamer, stirs, cups, trash bags, etc.)
- Inclement weather clothing and items (parkas, rain coats, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.)
- During hot weather, misting fans, a generator and electric cables may be added to the supplies to help with firefighter rehab.
Once the disaster is resolved, the volunteer staff will be expected to return the resources to storage, and restock any used supplies to be ready for the next response.
The Community Assistance Program will be another resource for use by incident commanders to help bring incidents to a safe conclusion.
The group will be notified by command when their services are needed. Safe and timely responses are expected and necessary to serve the needs of disaster victims and emergency workers.
Once on scene, the group will notify the incident commander face-to-face of their arrival and await instructions on where to set up. They will remain on scene until released by the incident commander.
Your volunteering for this group is greatly appreciated by all persons involved in emergency mitigation as well as the victims. The intrinsic reward of handing a cold drink to a dehydrated firefighter or offering a blanket and kind word or an ear to listen to the victims cannot be measured.