PAWTUCKET – Norman Menard says you don’t have to be a policeman, fireman or emergency management professional to help your community when there are threats of terrorism, crime, public health issues, and natural disasters.
What you do need, he says, is a willingness to learn and help support first responders any way you can when disaster does strike.
Menard has kicked off a new incarnation of the Citizen Emergency Response Teams program that was deployed in the city several years ago to encourage more citizen involvement in emergency preparedness. Called Pawtucket Volunteer Service, Menard is looking for a few good men and women to join the city’s “Ready Pawtucket” campaign, which will start by helping the city prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.
The emergency preparedness training is being provided under a federal grant to the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency. Classes, open to Pawtucket residents age 18 or older, begin Tuesday and will be held every Tuesday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Jenkes High School. All training materials will be provided at no cost to participants. The classes will be held for seven weeks ending on June 25.
Participants must have a valid Rhode Island driver’s license, a properly operating vehicle and proof of vehicle insurance and will undergo mandatory background checks.
The goal, says Menard, is to train at least 15 to 30 volunteers to assist the Pawtucket EMA and other municipal departments with manpower and equipment during emergencies and municipal events The training will include severe weather monitoring, emergency preparedness education, shelter management and Skywarn weather-watcher training by the National Weather Service, among other activities. Free CPR training is also included.
“This is an excellent way for residents to be directly involved in emergency activities that will improve community readiness in the event of a hurricane or similar major event,” Menard said.
Menard, a retired East Providence firefighter who spent more than 20 years in the fire service, was an American Red Cross liaison to the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, before being named Pawtucket’s Emergency Management Agency director in December.
The Pawtucket Volunteer Service is a newer version of the Citizen Emergency Response Teams, which was Pawtucket’s local version of Citizen Corps, a program under the Department of Homeland Security that provides training for the population of the United States to assist in the recovery after a disaster or terrorist attack. Each local Citizen Corps council partners with organizations, volunteers and businesses to organize responders, volunteers and professional first responders for an efficient response so efforts aren't duplicated.
Menard says the primary focus of the new initiative is to create public education, training and volunteer opportunities to support community and family safety.
“This new program has a different slant in that we’re trying to put a face to the EMA and work more with other public safety organizations,” he said.
But the core program will be citizens emergency response training and supporting the local first responders, which can be everything from passing out water bottles and manning hydration stations to providing road details at festivals and parades.
“Our slogan is ‘Ready Pawtucket,” and we’re going to start by making Pawtucket a storm-ready community,” Menard said.
For more information, call the Pawtucket EMA at (401) 729-5846 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org .