SPRINGFIELD – A nationwide initiative that started shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to increase local disaster preparedness has proven popular in Illinois, where 115 jurisdictions have adopted the Citizen Corps program. This week, nearly 100 representatives from several local Citizen Corps councils throughout Illinois are in Springfield for a two-day conference to learn how they can strengthen their volunteer preparedness and response programs. The Illinois Citizen Corps Council Conference is sponsored by the Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF).
“Last year in Illinois, we had numerous disasters, ranging from record or near-record flooding in dozens of counties, to ice storms, blizzards, and even an earthquake,” said Andrew Velasquez III, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA). “Citizen Corps members from several of the local councils played important roles in response efforts. We’re very fortunate in Illinois to have so many citizens who are ready, willing and able to help out when a crisis arises.”
The Citizen Corps program began in 2002 as a way to bring volunteers and first responder organizations together to help communities better prepare for, and respond to, all types of emergencies. Today there are more than 2,300 local Citizen Corps councils throughout the U.S. The Illinois Citizen Corps Council, an ITTF committee, provides support for local councils through training and education.
During the statewide conference Tuesday and Wednesday at the Hilton in Springfield, Citizen Corps members will hear from more than a dozen speakers on topics ranging from using Citizen Corps volunteers during disasters, to family emergency preparedness training, to programs at the state and federal levels that can support their efforts. One speaker, Mark Sloan from Harris County, Texas, will share his experiences dealing with sheltering nearly 200,000 evacuees following Hurricane Katrina.
Representatives from 49 of Illinois’ Citizen Corps councils are registered to participate in the conference this week, including:
Elk Grove Village
Rock Island County
Round Lake Beach
For more information about the Illinois Citizen Corps program, visit the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov/citizencorps.