Disaster Zone

Funding for Citizen Preparedness

Call it what you want, I bet it still doesn't get the same level of funding.

by Eric Holdeman / December 3, 2011

I got the following email from Paige Colburn, an Emergency Manager at Madison County, Alabama.  She had asked a question about Citizen Corps and addressed it to Richard Serino, FEMA Deputy Administrator when he was speaking at the International Association of Emergency Managers Association (IAEM) Conference last month.


She followed up with an email to the people she met at the Conference.  See the text of that below: 


Hello Everyone!

 Hope your travels home from the IAEM conference in Las Vegas were safe and pleasant.

 I’m writing because each of you expressed interest or concern about Citizens Corps funding after I questioned Deputy Administrator Serino of FEMA.

 I’d like to begin a dialogue on this issue. What are your thoughts or goals for the Citizens Corps program? What might we do as a community to support its continuation and fruition?

 The Honorable Richard Serino pointed out that 33 billion was spent to improve infrastructure for search and rescue and communications over the last 10 years. The improvement is obvious all around us. These successes can be furthered in the next 10 years with a financial commitment to community and individual preparedness. All disasters are local. The victims are the first responders.

 The previous ten years were some of the worst budgetary conditions our nation has faced since the Great Depression. Yet 33 billion dramatically improved emergency communications and other response capabilities during these tight fiscal years.

 I do not accept the current financial environment as an excuse to cut Citizens Corps funding; not when FEMA and DHS are adamant about citizen preparedness.

 This is a great opportunity for FEMA and DHS to put the money where their mouth is. I can assure each of you citizen preparedness is significantly cheaper than communications infrastructure or search & rescue training, mobilization and equipment.

 Citizens preparedness is one of the least expensive things we as emergency managers do.

 In speaking with Mr. Serino after his presentation, I learned Citizens Corps funding might continue under a different moniker. I am used to names of programs and funding changing with political agendas. For my part, so long as funding for this critical mission continues, I don’t care what it’s called.   


Changing the name is not significant--if funding the program doesn't change.  Personally I'm not in love with the title "Citizen Corps."  My push is that we should be funding public education and mobilization of citizen volunteers with the same enthusiasm that we have spent millions of dollars on equipment and expendable goods like Personal Preparedness Equipment (PPE) that is now expiring and can only be used for training.  It is a battle that I've fought ever since the homeland security money started flowing in 2003.


One of the issues is that citizens don't have professional associations lobbying for funding for their preparedness like other "professional" responders.  Citizens are counting on emergency managers like Paige to be their spokespersons!