California Launches Disaster Corps

June 29, 2010

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has launched the first-in-the-nation Disaster Corps to professionalize, standardize and coordinate trained disaster volunteers statewide. Disaster Corps volunteers will be registered by their local government organization under the Disaster Service Worker Volunteer Program and will meet Disaster Corps training, typing, certification and security screening guidelines.The goal is to integrate volunteers into the state’s emergency plan, the Governor said.

“Volunteers are an incredible resource, and no state has more giving, more passionate or more dedicated volunteers than California. Together, we will take volunteerism to a whole new level and make California better prepared and better equipped than ever before, for any emergency,” he said.

In the aftermath of the 2007 Southern California Wildfires and Cosco Busan Oil Spill, thousands of disaster volunteers poured into affected areas to assist with evacuations, sheltering, cleanup and a host of other activities supporting response operations. Schwarzenegger said he recognized the need to more effectively integrate and coordinate disaster volunteer efforts in all phases of emergency management, from disaster preparedness to disaster response and recovery. In February 2008, Schwarzenegger appointed Karen Baker to serve as the state’s and also the nation’s first secretary of Service and Volunteering and charged her office with the development of the Disaster Corps.

“The Disaster Corps program represents an amazing collaboration between state and local government, the nonprofit and private sectors and volunteers themselves,” Baker said. “These volunteers represent a highly-trained resource that will ensure our first responders are supported and our communities are better prepared.”

The Disaster Corps initiative was built collaboratively from the ground up through public-private partnerships and with a wide range of subject matter experts including representatives from all levels of government, local emergency managers, state agency volunteer coordinators and leaders in non-governmental volunteer programs.

As a first phase of the program, CaliforniaVolunteers awarded Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Francisco counties a total of $1.15 million in federal homeland security funding to support Department of Justice/FBI background checks and First Aid/CPR training for the first 1,000 members and a volunteer coordinator in each of the five counties.

“Government can’t do it all by itself,” said California Emergency Management Agency Secretary Matthew Bettenhausen. “Being ready for the next disaster, and ensuring an effective response, includes taking advantage of the many contributions and passion of citizens who care deeply about their communities.”

In addition to the Disaster Corps, CaliforniaVolunteers today launched the Disaster Volunteer Resource Inventory, a statewide web-based IT tool to coordinate and support public, private and nonprofit volunteer programs. CaliforniaVolunteers will provide secure access to the system, free of charge to Disaster Corps programs, non-governmental organizations active in disaster and local and state emergency managers. The Disaster Volunteer Resource Inventory will maintain individual contact information, as well as training history, deployment history and availability, credentialing information, language skills and other pertinent information.

To support the development of the Disaster Corps and Disaster Volunteer Resource Inventory, Deloitte LLP provided $750,000 in pro-bono consulting services, including project management, stakeholder analysis and communications support. The Home Depot Foundation has also committed nearly $60,000 for disaster-related supplies to equip Disaster Corps volunteers.

Source: Office of the Governor

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