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Frequently Asked Questions About Citizen Corps


I signed up on the website, but am still not sure what I should do to participate in Citizen Corps in my community?
Since President Bush released Citizen Corps: A Guide for Local Officials (PDF) on April 8, 2002, more than 300 communities across the country have started Citizen Corps Councils. Please look at the Council map to see if your community has formed a Council. Citizen Corps is all about taking action and helping your community be better prepared to handle disasters, threats, and emergencies of all kind. You may find that forming a neighborhood watch group or volunteering to help your police department or taking a training course that increases your awareness of risks and better prepares you to handle them are things that are easy to do in your community.

You can also contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross or other volunteer groups, such as Points of Light Volunteer Centers to ask what training they offer in disaster preparedness and how you can volunteer your time to help organize public education on disaster safety and support your local Citizen Corps Council.

You can also start by taking action for your family and sharing your ideas with your friends, neighbors, and social groups. Go to the How You Can Be Safer page of the Citizen Corps website community and family preparedness.

Create a family emergency preparedness kit and plan. Talk to your employer about evacuation and safety plans at work. Talk to your local schools about what kinds of information can be provided to children about safety. Talk to your neighbors about starting Neighborhood Watch and how the neighborhood can be safer.

We suggest that you acquaint yourself with the preparedness information and services provided by your community. If a need exists, are you willing or able to work with your local government officials to get a program started? Please go to the various website links that will provide you with more information on Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Service, CERT, and Medical Reserve Corps. If your schedule and skills allow, you may wish to contact your local government offices and volunteer your talents to helping them establish a Citizen Corps Council. Many of the Councils that have been formed are the result of one individual who had the time, talent, and the confidence of the local officials.

How is a Council formed? Who should I talk to about starting one?
Because the Councils bring together the first responder community, the volunteer community, and others to address community wide preparedness issues, we are asking that they be sponsored or endorsed by an elected local government official or city or county administrator who has responsibility over the local government's operations.

Call your mayor, county executive, or appropriate local official to volunteer your talents. If you have experience leading the community, organizing volunteers, and working with officials, you may be a valued asset to the council. The Citizen Corps Councils will leverage existing resources -- most communities already have a strong team that brings together such sectors as first responders and volunteer groups. To this team will be added elected officials, faith-based groups, and those that support the community substructure such as neighborhood commissions, water and utility providers, major industries, educational institutions, and transportation authorities. Leadership from all of these sectors is important to ensure all decision makers are at the table to manage existing volunteer resources, leverage mutually supportive endeavors, and direct local plans.

As you look through the Council list, you will see a variety of groups that have been designated as Councils. Some are Local Emergency Planning Councils (LEPCs), some are part of the City's homeland security task forces, and others are part of existing civic or volunteer committees that already form a key part of the local government structure. We encourage this type of multi-use! If the local government has a structure that already is formed and works and is willing to take on the additional Citizen Corps responsibilities, then they should be able to use it.

We encourage you to take a look at the Citizen Corps Guide for Local Officials and talk to your local government officials about starting a Council in your community.

I have suggestions and ideas for Citizen Corps activities in my community. Who can I contact to have them implemented?
We are happy to hear your ideas and suggestions. Please feel free to send suggestions to We will be posting the "smart practices", lessons learned, and other suggestions on the website and we also share ideas with all the state coordinators.

In addition, if you see that your community has a council, please contact them directly with ideas specific to your community. Depending on your idea, you might also contact the first responder groups in your community, such as the fire, police, and emergency services departments, and volunteers groups and organizations.

Also, if you have ideas for the website or for the E-Newsletter, we would love to hear them.

How do I change my e-mail address? What do I do if I have not received any E-Newsletters?
If your e-mail address has changed, please let us know by sending us an e-mail at Please indicate that you registered previously and that you would like to change your e-mail and put "New email address" in the subject line. IMPORTANT: PLEASE NOTE. If you signed up on the Citizen Corps website and did not receive an immediate confirmation of your registration or if you have not received any of the E-Newsletters, this means that the e-mail address we have for you is incorrect. Please send an e-mail to with your name and zip code.

What is so special about Citizen Corps? What are the benefits to my community?
Citizen Corps is an easy way for communities across America to engage every individual in preparing the homeland for any type of emergency or threat.

When a state, tribe or local government participate in Citizen Corps, they are agreeing to 1) work with everyone in their community to get preparedness on the "radar screen". Citizens will develop household preparedness plans and disaster supply kits. They will form Neighborhood Watch groups, they will know what to do in times of emergencies; 2) provide emergency preparedness training opportunities to the citizens of their community. This could be in the form of first aid training, CPR, Community Emergency Response Team Training, or other forms of emergency response education and training; and 3) create opportunities in the community where citizens can engage in volunteer activities that support the first responders, disaster relief groups, and community safety organizations.

By starting at the local level and making sure that communities are better prepared, the nation is more secure and better prepared.

Will I receive an I.D., plaque, or proof of volunteer status?
Proof of volunteer status will vary depending on which program with which you are involved. Many offer I.D. cards or training certificates. Every community recognizes their volunteers in different ways. Since the Citizen Corps programs are put together at the local level, a city or county may choose many different ways to recognize volunteers. We also encourage you to go to the USA Freedom Corps website and register your commitment to service. You will find an "online" diary that will help you keep track of your service hours. You may recall that last year, the President asked all Americans to give 4,000 hours of service over a lifetime. This website and on-line diary is an easy way for you to keep track of what you do for others!

I am a U.S. citizen living abroad, what can I do to participate?
Service, responsibility, and citizenship may be fulfilled in many different ways. Learning about how to be better prepared for emergencies is at the heart of Citizen Corps. Contact your embassy for information on volunteer programs where you are living and on how you can offer your talents and services.

I am interested in becoming a CERT instructor for my area. Who do I contact?
The emergency management office in your area, or your local fire department, either city or county, will be able to provide you with opportunities for CERT training. FEMA has developed a "Train-the-Trainer" course to prepare instructors to deliver CERT training to citizens within their community. Topics include hazard awareness, disaster fire suppression, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, and team operations.

CERT instructors are needed and highly valued, but a specialized background is often required. Again, contact your emergency management office to ask how your skills can best be used. FEMA has also made funding available to the states and they, in turn, to the local governments for launching and expanding CERT training in every state. Soon we will be posting all the CERT communities on the website. This may provide you with a good reference or starting point on who to contact regarding CERT training in your area.