I'll admit it: I'm a coward. I want to defend my country, but I didn't rush out and enlist like so many high school graduates, NFL star linebackers, and all kinds in between. I'm a dead shot with my M-1 Garande, but I really wanted to find a way instead to contribute to the defense of my country with my big brains and knowledge of things that go whoosh and kerboom. I'm still working on that, but in the meantime, if the fit hits the shan right here in my community, I'm also a pretty good runner, can carry moderately heavy things, look snappy in an orange safety vest, and always wanted to direct traffic. In short, I'd love to be on a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Let me help keep the peace in my neighborhood so the firefighters and cops can rush into the fold.
Shortly after 9/11 there was talk of CitizenCorps, a mass mobilization of civilians who will be trained, organized, and ready to be called upon in the event of another attack or catastrophe. It wasn't long before they launched a website, and I jumped on my browser and signed up the very next day. "Thanks!" it said. "We'll be in touch!" I got a few emails from the government over the next few months, saying how they were "doing stuff" and "getting organized" and "soon we'll tell you how to do something." That's fine, I understand how hard it is to create that kind of organization; it's hard enough organizing a good YD chapter, let alone a national reserve of skilled volunteers.
But seriously, dudes. It's been five years. Long enough to lose my email address, 'cause I never really heard anything useful from them, and then what with all this Young Dems civic duty keeping me busy, I just forgot about it. (I said "duty.")
So yesterday, I was inspired to do my part again and follow up with CitizenCorps after all these years when I listened to the 9/11 episode of To the Point. On the program, Harvard Public Policy professor Robert Putnam talked about this much-touted decline in the sense of unity that we were all "enjoying" in the immediate aftermath, and what he thought the problem was: not enough sacrifice. He was disappointed that President Bush never really asked the American people to sacrifice anything in any significant or consistent manner; instead, he urged us all to go shopping (and boy did I -- hemorrhaging cash all over Manhattan in a spurt of retail duty), and then he cut some of our taxes. Don't worry, we'll finance this war on our national credit card, and you can keep on burning up all the petroleum you want, that'll never get us in trouble. So when people start by comparing 9/11 to Pearl Harbor and then wonder why we aren't acting more like the good citizens of the Greatest Generation, Putnam points in part to the fact that they got more practice in citizenship, and that the sacrifices of war were a daily exercise for them whereas we have outsourced it to the enlisted masses. (On a side note, I found an interesting blog called Future Majority during my reading for this article, and they take issue with some of Putnam's views of our generation's political engagement; maybe things are better in FM's part of the country, but down here in the purple South, I don't exactly see us crawling with mothaf--in' volunteers on this mothaf--in' plane.)
Reinvigorated with unity, I started poking around CitizenCorps' (CC) site again, determined to become a trained CERT volunteer. Probably for the better, CC has largely relegated the actual doing of emergency preparedness to local authorities, and the CERT page pointed me to a list of Georgia CERTs. Hmmm, "Unincorporated Fulton County," has a "Fire CERT," with no locations in central Fulton, eh? Well, that's not promising -- but the contact is one Kevin Harris, who's also the only contact for the Atlanta-Fulton County CC Council, so maybe I'll just try searching more locally.
AtlantaGA.gov? Ha, good luck trying to find anything useful there. Fulton County cheerfully asks, "What can we help you find in Fulton County Instantly?" Unfortunately, "CERT" is not one of those instantly-findable things. But hey, a little Googling takes me to the obvious answer: GEMA! "If you are interested in becoming a CERT leader in your community, please contact your local emergency management agency (EMA)." So I "follow this link to locate [my] local EMA," and lo! and behold! The website for Fulton's EMA does not exist. Oh well, maybe GEMA still has something for me to read. CERT News? Nope. Calendar of Events? Nah-ah. Nothing but impossibly long URLs, a referral back to the national CC website, and a general "Thanks, but no thanks" from OHS-GEMA.
Therefore, OHS-GEMA does not use volunteers in its emergency and disaster response activities. However, OHS-GEMA works closely with a number of volunteer organizations in Georgia that respond to disaster. For information on Citizen Corps or Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) contact your local EMA or go to visit the Citizen Corp Web site.
So...Georgia has a CERT program, but...you have to join something other "volunteer organization" (half of those listed being faith-based) to get in on it. I think. It seems. You know I'm really not sure. So I'll go pester Mr. Harris and the appropriate email address at GEMA and get back to you on that.
In a few years.