Polk County’s Board of Commissioners gave their thumbs up for the Emergency Management Agency to form a new Community Emergency Response Team, and the application process for volunteers to take part is now open through the end of September.
County Commissioners voted unanimously to allow the EMA to form the team, approve their bylaws and take them in as an official county organization during the Tuesday, August 1 regular session. EMA Director Bobby Dockery and Coordinator Landon Hendrix were both on hand to tackle any questions about the organization from the County Commission during the work session, but approval came without any issue.
The request made by the EMA allows them to begin the process of forming a volunteer team who will help respond to areas impacted by disasters of all kind that can befall Polk County in the future. CERT Teams have been formed in areas all around the county over the past decades, providing help for first responders who don’t have bulk numbers during a time of crisis to help in a variety of ways on disaster scenes.
EMA officials have now opened the application process for volunteers, who will undergo an 18-hour training class that is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as a CPR training class.
The team will undertake a variety of tasks during disasters according to EMA Coordinator Landon Hendrix. He said the goal is to have the team act as a self-sufficient group who can react to scenes and undertake a variety of tasks, from light Search and Rescue efforts and undertaking basic first aid helping first responders on a scene of a natural disaster, for instance, to administrative roles in the field and at the Emergency Operations Center.
“Our goal is to have a group of volunteers that we can trust to start off on the team, so that when we say ‘this is the job, we need you to get it done,’ we know that whatever we put in front of them will get done,” Hendrix said.
October 1 is the final day the EMA will take applications for the new organization from potential volunteers, who will then review those applying and go through an interview process before taking on those volunteers.
It might seem like a lot to become a volunteer, but because of the nature of the organization the EMA wants to make sure that those who take part are committed to the training and helping in the future when they are needed.
After applications are closed, Hendrix said a round of interviews will be held and those selected will be notified before year’s end. The goal will be to start the training process in early 2024.
The EMA will be working out their final schedule for training for those who are accepted into the program prior to the start of the basic course. Hendrix added that “we want to be able to work with our volunteers as much as possible and find the best solution around the variety of schedules we will have to work around.”
Though no physical requirements are in place for volunteers, anyone who applies should be aware that a variety of operational tasks might require some time out in the field in difficult terrain and potential need for lifting.
The EMA will be utilizing the CERT team in administrative roles as well within the Emergency Operations Center when disaster strikes as well, so those who may be unable to lend their efforts due to physical issues aren’t being disqualified.
Dockery and Hendrix recently spoke to the Rotary Club of Polk County and other organizations about the soon-to-be formed CERT Team. Check out video from that meeting here to watch more about how CERT works and what the EMA has been up to in Polk County in recent years.