Hillsborough County residents are invited to volunteer for one of the many nationally recognized programs that help keep our homes and communities safe.

Coordinated volunteer networks help strengthen the ability to prevent, respond to and recover from emergencies and disasters in communities. The Citizen Corps Council of Hillsborough County, a nonprofit organization formed by residents, is planning to significantly expand its volunteer base and is currently recruiting and training to meet this critical goal.

“Residents can serve their community during this very critical time,” said Citizen Corps Council President Tom Aderhold. “Enthused and motivated volunteers are integral to fulfilling our commitment to serve our community in times of need and we are an integral part in making citizens aware about these opportunities.”

The council partners with law enforcement, fire and medical personnel, emergency management services, volunteer organizations, local officials, business and school district leaders and the community at large to meet its goals to prevent, prepare for and respond to crime, disaster, public health needs and emergencies of all kinds.

The council coordinates placement and training for individuals in nationally recognized programs, such as the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), Fire Corps, Medical Reserve Corps, USAonWatch (a national neighborhood watch program) and America’s Waterway Watch.

Hillsborough County residents of all backgrounds, regardless of skills or medical training, are encouraged to volunteer. The Hillsborough County CERT is seeking volunteers to join the team and will be trained in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization and disaster medical operations. Trained volunteers can then assist others following an event and can take an active role in preparing the community.

“Volunteers are trained to be the help until the help arrives,” said council director Anita Reino.

Other popular volunteer group are Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) and Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), which provide backup and auxiliary communications during times of emergency when traditional communications systems fail or become overloaded. Classes are being offered for those interested in refreshing their skills or for newly licensed ham operators.

“All these programs are supplements to public resources and first responders that are already available,” said Aderhold. “They empower citizens so they can take action to protect their homes and neighborhoods.”

For more information about the Citizens Corp Council, visit www.citizencorpscouncilhc.com or visit its Facebook page at Citizen Corps Council of Hillsborough County. To learn more about volunteering, call Reino at 298-3349.

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MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.