Hurricane disaster teams need volunteers

May 30, 2008

The Gainesville Sun–May 30, 2008

Special to The Sun

Hurricane season begins Sunday, and there’s no better time for residents to volunteer for disaster teams in the area, said Mark Brennan, a rural sociologist with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Southern states, like Florida, heavily prepare before the season, but finding volunteers for after-the-storm relief is sometimes left to last-minute planning.

"The day something bad happens isn’t the day to start preparing for it," Brennan said in a press release.

Residents can join local Community Emergency Response Teams, or CERTs, which are part of the Citizen Corps established nationally in 1993 through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. CERTs respond not only to natural disasters, but also in local emergencies, and as of January 2002 are under the Department of Homeland Security.

The lack of necessary social support can spread volunteers too thin and hinder the most valuable minutes and hours during an emergency, said Brennan.

While the number of CERTs has increased in the nation, only about 35 percent of the counties in FEMA’s southernmost region have one or more CERTs. For more information on CERTs or to form a local response team, call 352-264-6550 or visit the Web site at involved.