Raleigh Homeland Security Citizens' Program Off To Slow Start
Posted February 16, 2006 7:55 a.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — Israel Pattison wanted to make a difference in the city of Raleigh, so, he volunteered to be on the city's Citizen Emergency Response Team, or
CERT is a Homeland Security initiative to teach citizens how to help themselves and their neighbors in the event of a terrorist attack or some other type of disaster.
On The Web:
North Carolina Citizen Emergency Response Team
In 2004, the Raleigh Fire Department received a $33,000 grant -- part of about $168.5 million spent in the state since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States -- to form CERTs.
But one year later, Pattison is not sure the program is gaining enough momentum.
"I'm disappointed we haven't gotten as far as we could have gotten," Pattison said. "That's why I'm trying to do the grassroots stuff."
Now, he tries to recruit people on his own, having made 30 videos as part of his effort.
Assistant Fire Chief Larry Stanford, of the Raleigh Fire Department, said 98 people have been trained as CERT volunteers, but the problem with the program is that none of the volunteers is currently part of a neighborhood team -- which is the program's purpose.
"They'll have everything they need to feel comfortable until emergency first responders arrive on the scene," Stanford said.
Most of the $33,000 covered the cost of a disaster trailer that is stocked with chainsaws, shovels and other supplies.
Instructor fees came to nearly $3,000. Food for training sessions cost $1,600, leaving just enough money to stock 100 backpacks -- one for each team member.
Each backpack is stocked with nearly $300 in supplies.
The trailer would ideally sit in a neighborhood assigned to a team. Instead, it sits at a fire station until those who are trained figure out a way to raise the money to move forward.
"It hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be," Stanford said.
But he said he is determined not to give up on the program.
Raleigh CERT is currently working on by-laws for the organization, it has a
and the group helped with a recent mock disaster.
In comparison with Raleigh, Chatham County established six neighborhood teams in about the same time period as Raleigh has had by working through churches.
Last year, Wake County received an additional $7,000 for citizen training, including the CERT program. Since 2003, the state has received about $1 million for these programs.
Still, the state's program director, Cathy Henry, said she is not concerned about Raleigh's progress and that it is not uncommon for CERTs to start out slow.
But Pattison said he still is not yet sure whether the money was well spent.
"Some of that spending could've been spent on the grassroots effort to recruit people, because without the neighborhood team, the trailer doesn't do a lot of good," he said.
Pattison is convinced he's better off because of the training, but he's still waiting to see if the city of Raleigh will get something out of it, too.