After at least two years of working toward the project, the Office of Emergency Management plans to begin a Citizens Emergency Response Team program in Walker County.

A grant has been written and submitted to the Houston-Galveston Area Council requesting $35,000 to begin the project.

“The program is designed to help us with emergency management and response and recovery,” said Butch Davis, county emergency management coordinator. “We saw a need for the program but just didn’t have enough help until now.”

The program is open to anyone who wants to help and will provide training for participants as well as necessary equipment, Davis said.

“Walker County stood up during the events of hurricanes Rita and Katrina,” Davis said. “They were willing to give and open their doors. We are a responding county and through this program we will be able to call on a trained team for additional help during future disasters and restoration operations.”

When it was time to prepare the grant, the Office of Emergency Management turned to Charles Sturrock, deputy emergency management coordinator.

“We already have a group of volunteers helping with communications and the program will supplement that,” Sturrock said. “It will help spread out the work load and it’s always helpful to bring in fresh minds and different view points.”

The Citizens Emergency Response Team must be trained through the National Incident Management System that, according to the Department of Homeland Security, establishes standardized incident processes and protocols that all responders will use to coordinate and conduct response actions.

“Trained individuals will be able to fill in positions such as logistics, planning, and operations,” Davis said. “Most of our first responders still have regular jobs to do — crime, fire and sickness don’t stop because of a disaster. This team will be another resource we can call on in Walker County and help to keep others focused on their primary responsibilities.”

After receiving a “blessing” for the project from Commissioners Court during a regular session Sept. 10, the Office of Emergency Management waits for the H-GAC’s response.

Davis said if they are notified as grant recipients, plans are in place to begin recruiting volunteers.

“First, we will go back to court so they can accept the grant,” Davis said. “Judge (Danny) Pierce will then appoint a council that will oversee the operation and a Citizens Emergency Response Team coordinator. Then, we can begin soliciting volunteers, start training and get sufficient equipment.”

Sturrock said funds were limited, but if the grant is received, the $35,000 will be enough to help procure the new team to do its job.

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