Community Service and Volunteering

In April and in May I wrote articles about volunteering and helping your community during a disaster or at any time. I gave you a few reasons why I volunteer and ways you can volunteer as well as the different areas to volunteer.

In this article I want to go over what skills and training I have taken and why I have taken that training. This is not meant to be a “brag fest” but rather to give you a view into what you can do. Before I go into this, there are a few people who think “FEMA is supposed to do that”. Well, FEMA is money, not people. I also rather voluntarily do something because it is right rather than be involuntarily involved, either by forced taxes or forced labor. By stepping up and doing right, on our own accord, we make the biggest difference.

So, where did or how did I start my volunteering? If you had a chance to read my previous articles, you read about how my family just stepped up and helped after tropical storms and hurricanes. My mother and father both volunteered in various ways. At church for Sunday school, VBS and as a Deacon. They were scout leaders and sports team coaches, so volunteering to help comes naturally to me. Way before Rick Warren said it, I knew that life was not about me. I was also taught that it is not the governments job to take care of us, it is our job to help one another.

Along with my youthful volunteering I was a Boy Scout and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, which required, you guessed it, volunteering. In debate, we held local tournaments where we solicited volunteers to help, as an adult, I have been a judge at debate and speech tournaments, at schools and districts that I had do affiliation with, just a young person at my church needed help.

As a young parent, I was the dad that was at every Cub Scout meeting, not a leader, just the guy there to lend a hand if needed. I went on some (not all) of the kids school field trips to NASA or the Zoo or wherever, I just walked with and herded 3, 4 or 5 kids for a few hours. I was the guy at Vacation Bible School (VBS) who was “just there to help” (I ran the soundboard or setup and took down the tables and chairs for snack time or whatever was needed). All small baby steps, no big lifetime or yearlong commitment. I was just a volunteer, a “one” in a crowd. I really enjoy doing that still, for Girl Scouts and our church, and there is nothing wrong with volunteering that way.

During some ice storms in 2007 and 2008 along with tornadoes in our town those years, I noticed there was a group of organized volunteers. Together they appeared to get a lot done, quickly. Where I would show up and say 6 or 8 others just showed up to help a tornado victim dig through the remains of their home for valuables, it would take 3 or 4 weekends to help, these teams of trained people were taking 3 or 4 days to do even more.

These teams in our area were CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams), to learn more about them, please check out my previous articles. I was impressed enough that in April and May of 2010 I took some time out of my schedule and attended their training. There were a dozen people I never met, at a church where I had never been, learning things that I knew and did not know. May 8th 2010 I was awarded my Certificate of Achievement for completing my CERT level 1. May 19th that year, I completed my Healthcare Provider American Heart Association CPR class. From there I jumped on the internet, browsed over to the FEMA on line training and took IS-100.a, an Introduction to the Incident Command System and IS-700.a, National Incident Management System (NIMS), now I understood why things were done the way they were done.

Before when I “just showed up”, I sometime resented doing what I was told to do. I did not understand why the team I was assigned to, was supposed to drive through a subdivision and write on a sheet what locations had trees across their drive way, which ones had no power et al, then drive back to the staging area and turn the paperwork in. I just wanted to jump out and clear the driveway and once complete go to the next house.

Now I know that by logging what is wrong, as a team of teams, we get to the homes that need more help the fastest. I learned to ask, what if 10 houses down a tree went through the roof and has pinned an 88 year old to their bed, they are alive but in dire pain. If I took an additional 3 days to get there by cleaning one house at a time I did what was ‘good’, not what was ‘best’. By working and trusting other teams to do their part, together we get the correct equipment where it is needed the most.

I continued my FEMA studies with IS-200.a, ICS (Incident Command System) for Single Resources and Initial Incidents in 2010.
In 2011 I took IS-800.b, An Introduction to National Response Framework, IS-101.a, Deployment Basics as well as IS-102.a, Deployment Basics for FEMA Response Partners. I participated in “The Great Central U.S. Shake Out” (2011, 2012 and 2013), a program covering earthquakes. There is also IS-701.a, NIMS Multiagency Coordination Systems (MACS), and IS-775, Emergency Operations Center Management and Operations. There was also, IS-7, A Citizen’s Guide to Disaster Assistance.

This training and other allowed me to be called up as part of a team that deployed to the Joplin MO area immediately after the May 2011 tornado. We were there for months doing various tasks such as Search and Rescue, Wellness / live checks and debris cleanup. Later our team was able to return and help when Extreme Makeover came out. I simply drove a cart shuttling volunteers from check-in to their assigned areas, to first-aid and to meal tents. I worked with team mates during the 8pm to 8am shift and was blessed to me hundreds and hundreds of others who came out to move rocks, hammer boards, nail on roofing, feed others or deliver raw materials to the homes and park. People wanting only to help the citizens of Joplin.

This year (2013) I have taken FEMA IS-120.a, an Introduction to Exercises, IS-230.c, Fundamentals of Emergency Management, IS-26, Guide to Points of Distribution and IS-235.b, Emergency Planning, as well as AWR-160, Terrorism Awareness for Emergency First Responders, all on line courses.

Over the last 3 years I have taken practical hands on training and participated in drills for Search and Rescue put on by Greene County and the Civil Air patrol, as well as Outdoor Search and Rescue by the University of Missouri. I have also participated in a few State Conferences and of course that means classes on various topics and table top exercises were taken during those events.

Some in person trainings I have taken are the American Red Cross Shelter Operations, CBRNE Standardized Awareness, SEMA Damage Assessment.

I have participated in drills in Taney County for Shelter Operations, Ozark for a simulated school bus wreck simulations, participated as an actor in a couple of Christian County Citizens Corps training videos. I even worked in the Christian County EOC during a mock earthquake exercise where we pretended the New Madrid fault went off.

As a result of some of the above training as well as Table Top Exercises and actual participation in events, I was able to send in AAR (After Action Reports) to the State Guard Association of the US (SGAUS) and receive my “Basic Military Emergency Management Specialist” certification, I am currently working on my Senior MEMS.

As a result of participating and training with various county and state groups, I was introduced to HAM radio operations and have received training on and passed my Technician Class license from the FCC.

CERT and its related activities are not all I have done or do as a volunteer. I was Secretary and President of the Marshfield Shooting Club for several years. I served on the board and as President of Southwest Business Networking. I took Range Officer Trauma First Aid since I was on the Marshfield board and spend a fair amount of time at various gun ranges. I volunteer as the team lead for Safety at our Church. I am on the board of directors for the Christian County Citizens Corps 501c3 and on the Board of Directors for the State Guard Foundation of Missouri. I was involved in the Nixa School Districts CISP for Safety and Security as the only parent volunteer.

Not all volunteer projects or opportunities turn out the way you intended, at the church I attended as a youth, my Eagle Scout project was to build a playground for the children. 2 weeks after it was built, the church bulldozed it to expand parking. Ouch!

If you were not raised volunteering that does not mean you cannot start, anywhere and in anyway. It has been said a million times, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

It is my heart’s desire to encourage you, to help you take that first step by volunteering to watch the halls during VBS, to go, just once to the retirement home and sing a few songs, to head a food and clothing distribution center for the poor in your county, you can simply unpack the bags of items donated, hang up clothes or sort the cans of food.

Until we meet again, have a virus free week.


One thought on “Community Service and Volunteering

  1. Pingback: County and City governments that do not use CERTs should be ashamed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *