EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation -- November 13, 2002

"Citizen Corps Councils"

Elizabeth DiGregorio
FEMA Liaison to the White House for Citizen Corps

Christine Harvey
Chair, Citizen Corps Council of Southern Arizona

Leanne Durm
Director of Volunteer Programs, Tennessee Office of Homeland Security

Avagene Moore
Moderator, EIIP Coordinator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available upon request to [email protected]


Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum!

On behalf of my EIIP Partner, Amy Sebring, and myself, it is a pleasure to welcome each of you to the first Virtual Forum for this fiscal year.

We are delighted to introduce our speakers to discuss the Citizen Corps Councils concept from the federal, state and local perspectives. Each of these ladies has an interesting background and they are very accomplished women. Please take the time to read the bios on the background page after our session if you have not previously done so.

To talk about the federal perspective, we have Elizabeth DiGregorio from FEMA. Ms. DiGregorio joined FEMA in 1980 as a disaster assistance employee. She became a full-time employee in 1982 and moved to FEMA Headquarters in 1988. Ms. DiGregorio was appointed chief of staff by FEMA Director Allbaugh in July 2001. She is now the FEMA liaison to the White House for Citizen Corps and is responsible for developing the national strategy for Citizen Corps and for overall coordination of the program's implementation.

Second in our lineup of speakers is Christine Harvey from Tucson Arizona. Ms. Harvey is the author of 6 business books published in 22 languages. She is experienced in communications and leadership training around the world having lived in London and Brussels for 23 years. She is a Past President of the London Chamber of Commerce. Currently Ms. Harvey owns Intrinsic Marketing and is also the Chair of the Citizen Council for Homeland Security of Southern Arizona.

Third, but not least, we are pleased to introduce Leanne Durm, a native of Lynchburg Tennessee. Ms. Durm has been actively involved in public service throughout her career. Prior to her current position, she was employed with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) as a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)/Domestic Preparedness Training Officer for two years. She also worked for U.S. Senator Fred Thompson for three years in Washington, DC. Ms. Durm is now the Director of Volunteer Programs for the State of Tennessee Office of Homeland Security, a position that promotes Citizen Corps and works to maximize Citizen Corps Councils throughout the State of Tennessee.

Ladies, we welcome you here today. We will start the formal part of our presentation by asking a few questions of each of our speakers. When we have interviewed all three, I will give instructions for the protocol for asking questions of our guests.


Avagene Moore: Ms DiGregorio - Liz, will you please tell us the history of the Citizen Corps?

Liz DiGregorio: Thank you, Avagene, and welcome to everyone. I appreciate this wonderful technological opportunity.

Citizen Corps was created in January 2002 as part of President Bush's USA Freedom Corps, Call to Service. The purpose of Citizen Corps is to create ways to engage all Americans in protecting the homeland by making their communities safer, stronger and better prepared to handle any type of threat, emergency or disaster. This is done by creating Citizen Corps Councils and other volunteer opportunities at the state and community levels that will foster the mission of community, family and individual preparedness and awareness; training individuals to be better prepared, and creating volunteer opportunities where citizens can actively support their local first responders.

To start the program at the national level, the Administration identified five "national" programs. They are Neighborhood Watch, Volunteers in Police Services and Operation TIPS all managed through the Department of Justice; Medical Reserve Corps managed through HHS, and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training managed by FEMA.

FEMA also is responsible for creating the Councils and coordinating the overall program. FEMA developed a process to have other national level organizations whose programs support the Citizen Corps mission join as "affiliate" members. Currently, the National Fire Prevention Association is an affiliate member. Many more are anticipated this coming year.

FEMA also established a national Citizen Corps Council made up of key leaders in the fire, law enforcement, emergency management, medical, volunteer, non-profit, and corporate communities. This Council will meet to exchange ideas and share information on how to create a better preparedness citizenry.

Please visit http://www.citizencorps.gov later and get a full description of the program and download the Guide!

Avagene Moore: Liz, how is this different from existing volunteer organizations in our cities and counties?

Liz DiGregorio: Citizen Corps and the Citizen Corps Councils use existing resources. It does NOT set up a new volunteer organization. See the chart on this first slide.

[Slide 1]

Because the state and local leaders drive this, we have intentionally given a community many options of how to form a Council and initiate Citizen Corps. For example, some communities are tapping into existing homeland security planning committees that have the first responder and community leaders already on board and adding a preparedness and citizen volunteer component. Others are tapping into the EPA Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs); others are reorganizing the Project Impact committees.

The goal is to have the citizens actively involved in their community's preparedness. We want to make this work for them, so we welcome many different models to getting citizens involved with existing volunteer groups and the local leadership.

Some key volunteer partners are AmeriCorps and American Red Cross. We are also working with many others and with the State Commissions on Volunteers to bring together the first responder and the volunteer communities.

Avagene Moore: I assume forming a Citizen Corps Council gives more structure to the local community volunteer effort - who makes up the Citizen Corps Council?

Liz DiGregorio: To date, we have more than 215 local citizen corps councils across the country. Please see the Web site for a full listing in your state.

As mentioned, each state and local government forms the council somewhat differently and we encourage it. Generally, community leaders are on the Council. Groups such as the local fire, law enforcement, emergency management, emergency medical are standard. Business leaders, school and university leaders, as well as any special needs population representatives and the active volunteer and non-profit leaders are also on the Council.

For example, The US Junior Chamber of Commerce, USJAYCEES have pledged to have all 2000 of their chapters support citizen corps at the local level. These members should be part of the Council when formed. In Orlando, Florida, Universal Studios is a major player on the Council because they are such a big part of the community. Others, such as Tucson, have highlighted schools and have created a "corps" within the Council that deals with all school related issues.

Avagene Moore: How does the Citizen Corps Council work with other volunteer efforts, i.e., a Red Cross Chapter, Senior Citizen Corps, or Points of Light?

Liz DiGregorio: We consider the existing volunteer groups our key partners! For example, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) which is responsible for AmeriCorps recently released over $10M in grants to get volunteers engaged in homeland security.

This "volunteer network" will work with the local and state governments to implement many aspects of Citizen Corps. In the State of Rhode Island, the State level Citizen Corps Council is collaboration between the State Emergency Management Office and the American Red Cross. ARC actually chairs the Council.

Also, with the DOJ programs, it is in collaboration with the National Sheriff's Association that Neighborhood Watch is expanding and DOJ collaborates with the International Association of Police Chiefs to create and implement the Volunteers in Police Services programs.

Avagene Moore: What types of programs are included in the Citizens Corps?

Liz DiGregorio: See the chart on this second slide for the existing programs but many, many more will become "affiliates." The theme of these programs is engaging every American in actively participating in making their communities and families safer and better prepared by offering opportunities for public education and outreach, citizen training, and volunteer programs that relate to crime prevention, emergency preparedness and mitigation, public health needs.

[Slide 2]

Avagene Moore: What kind of funding is available for this effort and how do communities participate?

Liz DiGregorio: It is important to recognize that the 10 statewide councils and the 215 local councils all started major Citizen Corps initiatives WITHOUT federal funding! The federal funds will help to greatly jumpstart the program and get a national initiative going a lot faster and with some common themes.

FEMA currently has $21M that it is distributing to state and local governments in the form of grants. The grant dollars are provided to the states based on the USA Patriots Act allocation formula (a base percentage plus population) and 75% must be passed down to the local governments. The funds are to be used to engage communities in Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and to help locals develop Citizen Corps Councils.

HHS just released $2M dollars in competitive grants (up to $50K per applicant) for Medical Reserve Corps demonstration projects. A full listing of the awards is on their Web site. HHS just released $2M dollars in competitive grants (up to $50K per applicant) for Medical Reserve Corps demonstration projects. A full listing of the awards is on their Web site.

FEMA currently has a request for FY 03 funds. The Administration requested $233 M. Currently numbers ranging from $15M for CERT training only and $30 M for Citizen Corps (councils and training) are being discussed with the Congressional appropriators. We hope to secure FY 03 funding in order to meet the homeland security goals for this program.

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Liz! And now we turn to Ms Harvey from the Citizen Council for Homeland Security of Southern Arizona. Christine, when was your Citizen Corps Council for Homeland Security started?

Christine Harvey: We started 10 days after 9/11 and called ourselves "Operation Safe Tucson." After our Mayor (Bob Walkup) met with President Bush and 13 other Mayors about Citizen Corps, we transitioned into a Citizen Corps Council. Today we call ourselves "Citizens Council for Homeland Security - Southern Arizona."

Avagene Moore: What is the Council's purpose or main focus?

Christine Harvey: To prevent further terrorism, through education and through strong Neighborhood Watch programs and through publicizing our Sheriff's TIPS Hot Line. To respond to terrorist crisis, should there be one, having volunteers support emergency services. We also fill the gaps that exist because government can not pay for everything and agencies can not do everything.

Avagene Moore: What types of programs are underway in this effort?

Christine Harvey: We have all five Corps - Neighborhood Watch, TIPS, CERT, VIPS and MRC. We also have committees - School, Public Relations and Marketing, etc. We have done this WITHOUT any of our own funding. We decide on a project, then go forward and ask for community or agency support.

Avagene Moore: How many people are actively involved?

Christine Harvey: We have 900 registered volunteers in the Council and 5 Corps. Right now most are interested in the Medical Reserve Corps. Soon we will train 1000 people in CERT.

Avagene Moore: Your Web site indicates an exercise is to be conducted. What type of exercise is it and who is involved?

Christine Harvey: The exercise is being organized by the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) in collaboration with the Office of Emergency Management. It will be a test case for flying in pharmaceuticals and dispatching them. 1000 volunteers are needed.

The exercise will be of national interest, with people coming from as far away as Hawaii and New York. We expect Secretary of Health Tommy Thompson and Surgeon General Rich Carmona to be here. Anyone wanting more information can contact the office of MMRS Manager, Les Caid, 520-791-4512 at Tucson Fire Department.

Avagene Moore: I understand you celebrated your first anniversary last night (Nov 12); can you tell us a little bit about your celebration and how you hope this impacts your Citizens Corps Council?

Christine Harvey: Every time we have an event, it impacts our Citizen Council and Corps for 3 reasons. First, the publicity the event gets helps to let people know we exist so that they can use us as a resource. Secondly, it draws in new volunteers. Thirdly, it helps to keep us all motivated.

Last night's event was a very special black tie dinner evening at which I was honored by the Mayor and my team mates for my service this year as Founding Chairman. We also had installation of the new 35 member Board. Our keynote speaker was Ralph Diaz, head of the local FBI. We had about 100 people attending, officials from surrounding cities, volunteers and family members.

Avagene Moore: What are your plans now that you are Past Chairman of the Citizen Corps Council?

Christine Harvey: I plan to lead a team to expand the number of Citizen Corps Councils nationwide. I'm heading up a special task force for this. We plan to meet once a week and mentor other cities and regions that want to start one. I feel that our experiences will help other regions short cut their start-up. We have already mentored a large number of cities and regions informally, but now we want to give it specific emphasis and outreach.

Avagene Moore: From your very successful experience this past year, what is necessary to get a Citizen Corps Council started?

Christine Harvey: We started in the Mayor's living room with 20 interested people immediately after 9/11. The Mayor's wife put the team together. Most of us didn't know each other then. We went around the room and asked everyone to tell about their own uniqueness as an icebreaker. We learned a lot about each other that way.

After discussion on terrorism, the economy and stress in the community, we went around again and asked each person to say what they thought needed to be done to keep our community safe. Finally each person wrote their name and telephone number on a 'post-it' plus the area of their interest. It was that easy.

We then formed committees based on each person's area of interest. We had meetings at least every 2 or 3 weeks and invited new people and more agency people each time. When I was elected Chairman, I chose the Corps Chairmen based on their expertise and ability to move mountains. It is amazing to see people come forward for Board positions and for the Corps.

I think we have a much stronger community for it, and certainly stronger friendship and knowledge of the talent in our community. I can't think of anything more satisfying. I urge everyone to go out and do this.

Avagene Moore: Christine, thanks for sharing your experiences with us. Sounds like a really good Citizen Corps Council in your area.

And now we move to our last speaker, Ms Leanne Durm. Leanne, I understand the State of Tennessee has recently implemented a Citizen Corps effort. How is it organized in Tennessee?

Leanne Durm: Hello. Thanks for having me. And, thank you all for participating.

Citizen Corps efforts are being organized within the State of Tennessee's Office of Homeland Security. We are tasked with maximizing the establishment of Citizen Corps Councils throughout the State. Governor Don Sundquist just recently announced members of the statewide committee, known as The Governor's Citizen Corps Advisory Committee. This committee will serve in an advisory capacity to the Governor, the Deputy of Homeland Security and to Citizen Corps Councils at the local level.

Avagene Moore: How are you publicizing this effort?

Leanne Durm: We are currently publicizing Citizen Corps and the five programs under its umbrella simply with press releases and scheduled speaking engagements / presentations. However, We did have a statewide Citizen Corps Conference in September. Once Tennessee has received dollars from FEMA (allotted from the supplemental budget FY 02) we will incorporate an advertising / marketing strategy which may include public service announcements, brochures, et al.

Avagene Moore: Can any Tennessee city or county participate? If so, what is required of them to join the Citizen Corps?

Leanne Durm: Sure, any city or county may participate, and we are encouraging them to do so. Since this is a grassroots volunteer initiative, participation requirements are rather minimal. One requirement of those organizations or persons coming forward, such as a state university in one Tennessee county and a Rotary Club in another, is that they MUST include the local elected official and the emergency management director in that area and keep them in the loop.

Avagene Moore: Leanne, what are the plans in Tennessee for expanding CERT training? Will the training be integrated through the Councils?

Leanne Durm: CERT will be administered by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). While CERT training will not solely be integrated through Citizen Corps Councils, those members interested will have every opportunity to take such training.

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Leanne! We are grateful to all three of our speakers. Great job! I believe all our participants today will have a number of questions about Citizen Corps Councils.

[Audience Questions & Answers]


Lloyd Colston: Ms. DeGregorio, why Citizen Corps? Why not just let all the components compete for the $$$ without an umbrella? Can you have Community Emergency Response Teams, Neighborhood Watch, etc. without a Council?

Liz DiGregorio: Mr. Colston, thank you for your question. The applicants for the Citizen Corps dollars are the state and local governments. One of the big lessons we learned after 9/11 is that there are a lot of activities out there but need some coordination. We are making it as easy as possible for the states and localities to apply for the funds and the funds are for council development and the majority for CERT training.

A local council does NOT have to have all the national programs. In fact we are encouraging them to use what works for them. The funds however, are to lend some structure to the council and to help a community provide CERT training. We find that a council is a great and easy way to get community leaders to share information and get to know one another and their community’s capabilities.


Patricia Pearson: Question for general group. Do any of you have a written Citizen Corps concept plan you are willing to share with those of us just getting started? If you do and are willing to share please send to [email protected]

Liz DiGregorio: Ms. Pearson, we hope you look at the Tucson plan. From the national level, we are working with each state to share smart practices of what works in different communities.

Christine Harvey: You can see a bubble chart of our organization on http://www.tucsonccc.org. This should help and has other information, too.

Leanne Durm: I'm also more than happy to send you any information I might have from this level.


Sunnie Baldwin: Must ALL CERT Trainers go to Emmittsburg or their State DEM? Can people trained by FEMA or their DEM then train other Trainers at the local level? We are sending 4 people to Emmittsburg next week and 2 to DEM in March for CERT. Can they then train local trainers?

Leanne Durm: To my understanding, they sure can.

Liz DiGregorio: Yes. FEMA will be working with the states to have a series of train-the-trainers in each region and with each state.


Jim Graham: Liz, I wonder how Citizen Corps can help communities cope with overwhelming outpourings of volunteers and donations in disasters like 9/11.

Liz DiGregorio: Mr. Graham, this is an issue that we hear about a lot. One of the key factors behind Citizen Corps is tapping into the existing volunteer agencies and groups. We are working very closely with ARC and AmeriCorps, Points of Light and others to address your very issue.

One great factor of working together during non-disaster situations through the Council is that emergency managers and other first responders get to know what their needs are and can identify volunteers in advance and learn to better work with them on a day to day basis. We are relying heavily on our AmeriCorps and ARC partners to help us get better at managing volunteers.

Christine Harvey: Yes, we talk about this often. We have come to know so many agencies now and so many Council members and their abilities that we can organize ourselves quickly to help volunteers. But I feel we need to work in advance to have, for example, 4 sites around town where spontaneous volunteers could go to for instruction on how to use their talent.


Charles Ehret: Liz, how do we go about applying for funding? Where can we get guidelines more specific than the present ones posted on the FEMA Web site to help us recruit citizens in forming CERT teams?

Liz DiGregorio: The funding is being handled by each state. The state in turn contacts their local governments. The first round of applications from the states was due November 8, 2002. We hope to soon provide you with more guidance on CERT teams but each state already has state training officers through emergency management and they know how to recruit for CERT.

Leanne Durm: If I may interject – in Tennessee, we hope to have our money in hand from FEMA by the beginning of January 2003. In turn, we will then begin the sub-grant process with local communities who must fill out an application process to receive funding.

Christine Harvey: We have teamed with the community college to organize and publicize the CERT training.


Charles Ehret: Although we are registered as a council our state did not forward the information to us. Where do I go now?

Liz DiGregorio: Are you part of a local government? Can you give me more information? Email off line after this: [email protected]

Christine Harvey: I think this is not unusual, and perhaps, Liz, there should be a requirement for all state emergency folks to pass the information to registered Councils.


TimM LasVegas: Ms. DiGregorio, is FEMA agreeable that independent cities/communities can establish community-specific Councils to address their unique needs and collaborate together through a regional planning body? Will FEMA require the funding requests for Citizen Corps activities be tied to the state and local terrorism threat & risk assessment analysis?

Liz DiGregorio: Your question is complex and I do not want to minimize its importance. If you mean that individual towns, cities, counties can form councils, the answer is yes as long as a local elected official gives them the nod and that they are tied into the first responders.

At this time the funds are not tied to risk analysis. They are 100% and non-competitive at the state level. We are looking at the state plans now to see how they plan to devolve 75% to local governments.


Peggy Peirson: Ms. DiGregorio - our County has a 12-year old, 60 member-organization, Emergency Management Council and it's own neighborhood emergency training program that was brought by our Council in the early 90's. (I'd be happy to share structure, bylaws, etc. for the council if anyone is interested. [email protected] ). Will those meet Citizen Corps criteria for a Council and a CERT program and how do we proceed to join citizen corps without creating a new system?

Liz DiGregorio: Peggy, thank you. We are encouraging communities to look at what they already have and use it to achieve the goals of Citizen Corps. Your committee structure would most likely be a great candidate to also implement Citizen Corps.


Lloyd Colston: Ms. DiGregorio, http://www.fema.gov/nwz02/nwz02_211.shtm is the URL for "Smart Practices". Should a Council be City or County based or should one have a community with a Council within a County with a Council? To restate the question in another form, how much turf should the Council try to cover – example, South Arizona is a large chunk of geography?

Liz DiGregorio: Mr. Colston, the Smart Practices Website is not yet up. What you see is similar but not specifically geared for the Councils; we plan to have one similar.

I think a community needs to section off as much or little as is doable for them. We have all versions across the country; some are city specific. Others like LA have multiple ones and others have regional ones based around a regional airport, etc. What works for one community won’t work for others.

Christine Harvey: I agree. As we only have 2 major cities, we in Tucson as the southern big city feel that whatever threat affects us affects the whole region. However, within our area there are several smaller Citizen Councils and we plan to get more started. Then we will all collaborate together. Some may join in on our CERT and others may do their own, etc.


Terri Stockdreher: Thanks for having this forum! I have a question and a comment. Question: Are the councils required to go through certification, possibly to qualify for funding? And avoid scams? Comment re spontaneous volunteers: In our area, we are working with the local Volunteer Center. They are working closely with local EM and government to establish regional intake centers. The VCs could act as another partner of the citizen councils to support spontaneous volunteers.

Leanne Durm: One of my responsibilities is to track all Councils statewide. I am so involved with the program at the state level and who is doing what where that we can keep tabs on who is officially registered and who is meeting the guidelines or criteria we are setting.

Liz DiGregorio: The councils register on line. It then goes to FEMA who coordinates with the region and state. The states give us the nod but do not certify. We do require a local official as the approving official for the council.


Isabel McCurdy: Liz, I am a Canadian and wondering is Citizens Corps Council specifically targeted only for the terrorism hazard response or does it apply to any other hazard?

Liz DiGregorio: Good question. What started as a response to 9/11 is truly ALL hazard. The mission of Citizen Corps is to promote personal responsibility, training, awareness and volunteerism at all levels for ALL emergencies.


Avagene Moore: Our time is up for today. This has been an excellent session thanks to our speakers, Liz, Christine and Leanne. We thank you, the audience, as well. We will have the transcript with slides posted no later than Friday on the EIIP Virtual Forum site.

Our formal session is adjourned but please help Amy and me thank Liz, Christine and Leanne. Ladies, if you wish to plug in your respective email addresses, you can do so in case someone wishes to contact you.

Liz DiGregorio: Thank you, Avagene, and everyone. Please email if you have other questions. [email protected]

Christine Harvey: Please check our Web site http://www.tucsonccc.org and let us know if you need help starting a council. We have a mentoring team and our Mayor will talk to your Mayor. My email is [email protected] .

Leanne Durm: My email is l[email protected] .

Avagene Moore: Audience, you are welcome to have some off-the-record discussion. No rules now! Thank you all for being here today!