Volunteers of the corps will receive training.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The flag-emblazoned, red-white-and-blue posters ask Mahoning County residents to "Serve America Today" as "Warriors on the Home Front."
Calling for women and men to become members of a new Mahoning County Citizens Corps, the notices will soon start appearing at various locations around the county.
The new corps is being formed in response to President Bush's creation of the Freedom Corps in January, said Walter M. Duzzny, director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency.
During the State of the Union address, Bush asked all Americans to serve the nation for the equivalent of two years, or 4,000 hours, over their lifetime.
"If something should happen, not only in the war on terrorism but in terms of natural disasters and major emergencies, we can mobilize these folks," Duzzny said.
The local group will be made of four components: Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), a medical reserve, a Community Response Team (CRT) and a Terrorist Information and Prevention System (TIPS).
It is sponsored by Mahoning County Commissioners Edward Reese, David Ludt and Vicki Allen Sherlock; Sheriff Randall Wellington; and the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency.
How it will work
The VIPS program would be administered by the Sheriff's Department, Duzzny said. The medical reserve would be headed up by the Northeast Ohio Disaster Medical Assistance Team. The CRT would be operated by Duzzny's office, and TIPS would be made up of neighborhood watch groups.
The program cost has not yet been determined, Duzzny said, but it will be funded through federal Homeland Security money and funds generated by the county's 0.5 percent sales tax.
Duzzny said the agencies will determine what needs are and recruit people to fill those needs, categorizing their skills and determine how they might be best used during a major emergency. Duzzny said all would receive federally mandated training.
Sheriff's Major Michael Budd said Wellington sees the corps as a chance to assist with homeland security.
"It will provide the sheriff with a multi-faceted, multi-task rapid deployment force," Budd said. " ... So, if we ever do have a huge tragedy around here, we'll be able to hit the ground running."
Anyone can help
Budd said the corps would include people in various areas of expertise, from carpenters to airplane pilots to medical personnel.
Those volunteering would receive eight hours of training in standard police work and procedure. Further, the group would be an intelligence network, informed about whom to notify when they learn of suspicious activities.
Duzzny said the new corps will be useful even when there is no direct attack on the nation.
An awareness of surroundings will help prevent abductions, break-ins, robberies and other crimes. It will also simply embolden people to lend a hand to neighbors in need.
"We need to be people helping people," he said. "We need to take the same awareness being a warrior on the home front takes and go next door."
To join, call Volunteer services at (330) 782-5835, Help Hotline at (330) 746-2696 or the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency at (330) 740-2200.