Homeland Security and Emergency Services


Citizen Corps

The Citizen Corps program was initiated nationally by President Bush after September 11, 2001, encouraging citizens to actively participate in their community in areas such as crime prevention, emergency response, and emergency preparedness and mitigation for not only acts of terror, but for all hazards - including natural, man-made or technological disasters.

The goal of the Citizen Corps program is to create a national network of state and local Citizen Corps Councils to tailor volunteer activities and opportunities to the community and to provide a unified approach to recruitment, retention, and public education and awareness. Local Citizen Corps councils, through their component programs, will offer training to citizens and volunteer opportunities for everyone, including those with special skills and interests.

Every local Citizen Corps council will be different, depending on the needs and the resources of each local community. Communities that are considering establishing a Citizen Corps council should include representatives from the following kinds of organizations or groups (this list is not exclusive; representation on a local Citizen Corps council is locally determined):

  • first responder / emergency management
  • volunteer community
  • elected officials
  • business leaders
  • school systems representatives
  • transportation sector
  • media executives
  • minority and special needs representation
  • leadership from community sub-structure

The five programs under the Citizen Corps umbrella include:

Each program is coordinated by both federal and State agencies at their respective levels. While some communities may choose to be active in all of those programs, others may only choose some of the programs. Additional programs and opportunities for public education, training or volunteer programs that promote community and family safety may be coordinated through a local Citizen Corps council.

The community will benefit from actively participating in the Citizen Corps initiative by achieving a greater sense of security, responsibility, and personal control of their community and the hazards they may face. The program will also build community pride and patriotism while preparing us all for helping others in a crisis.

The New York State Disaster Preparedness Commission (DPC) functions as the State's Citizen Corps Council, which addresses the key State responsibilities under Citizen Corps and provides recommendations to the Commission as a whole. This working group is comprised of agencies involved with one of the five federal programs under the Citizen Corps umbrella. New York State's responsibilities in the Citizen Corps initiative include:

  • Promoting Citizen Corps at the State level
  • Establishing statewide partnerships
  • Conducting statewide public information and outreach campaigns
  • Managing and reporting on grants
  • Conducting Community Emergency Response Team - Train-the-Trainer courses

Through a partnership with the Red Cross Coordinated Community Volunteer Resources (CCVR) grant, NYSOEM and the American Red Cross have established five Regional Coordinators (operating out of each of NYSOEM's five regional offices) and one State Coordinator (operating out of NYSOEM's Albany Headquarters). The first annual New York State Citizen Corps Leadership Conference was held in Albany in June 2003. This conference provided training to local Leadership Volunteers, VISTA members and CERT Instructor candidates.

Citizen Corps: Community Preparedness Newsletter

Contact Information

Interested in forming a Citizen Corps Council in your community?

Contact Nora Porter, NYS Citizen Corps Coordinator at: NPorter@dhses.ny.gov

Visit Federal Citizen Corps website at www.citizencorps.gov to assure that you have been officially recognized and are listed as a New York State Citizen Corps Council, as well as to read updated news on the Citizen Corps program.

Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EEFAK)

As part of National Preparedness Month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Citizen Corps, Federal Emergency Management Agency, USA Freedom Corps and Operation HOPE, Inc unveiled the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EEFAK) at a signing ceremony at the U.S. Department of the Treasury on September 27, 2004.

EFFAK is a simple tool to help Americans minimize the financial impact of a natural disaster or national emergency. It helps users identify and organize key financial records and serves as a quick reference to their most important financial documents.

Download EFFAK

For more information, please go to Operation HOPE.

Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

During a large-scale disaster, the response of any community's emergency services may be delayed or overwhelmed for a variety of reasons. This leaves the citizens of the community - family, neighbors, and co-workers - to provide for their own well-being and safety until professional responders arrive. This very reality is the cornerstone of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program.

The goal of the CERT program is to provide the private citizens who complete the course with the basic skills that they will need to respond to their community's immediate needs in the aftermath of a disaster, when emergency services are not immediately available. By working together, CERTs can assist in saving lives and protecting property using the basic techniques in this course.

The CERT program is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. The program provides a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference. CERT is a community based volunteer effort and is a component of the Citizen Corps program.

The CERT program strives to present citizens with the facts about what to expect following a major disaster in their community and to deliver the message about their responsibility for mitigation and preparedness. Through didactic and hands-on sessions they receive training in needed life saving skills with emphasis on decision making, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. Lastly, local CERT program managers will likely organize teams so that they are an extension of first responder services offering immediate help to victims until professional services arrive.

The basic CERT program encompasses nine units:

  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Fire Safety
  • Emergency Medical Operations I
  • Emergency Medical Operations II
  • Light Search and Rescue Operations
  • CERT Organization
  • Disaster Psychology
  • Terrorism and CERT
  • Disaster Simulation

These units are intended to be delivered in 2 ½ to 3 hour blocks during once-per-week evening sessions.

Where the team aspect of CERT may not be applicable to various communities in New York State, we stress the benefits that the CERT training will provide for individual, family, and workplace preparedness. Either way, coordination with local Citizen Corps Councils (if in place) and local emergency services agencies/organizations is a critical relationship. These partnerships ensure that CERTs are not working independently or contrary to the local emergency response. Local Citizen Corps Councils and local emergency services will establish the operating procedures for CERTs specific to their communities.

Program Responsibilities

Administered by the New York State Office of Emergency Management (NYS OEM), the State's responsibilities of the CERT program include training and qualifying CERT instructors through state-wide Train-the-Trainer programs and coordinating the CERT curriculum for New York State. OEM is also responsible for administering any CERT grants that may be formulated by the Federal Government.

Since the CERT program is an initiative that needs to be coordinated locally, local governments are responsible for course delivery, team/program management, and material and equipment costs.


A variety of funding sources exist to help defray the start-up and maintenance costs of a CERT program:

  • Some communities build costs into their budget, while others charge participants to cover costs for instructors and course materials.
  • In some communities, CERT organizations have filed for 501(C)3 (non-profit organization) status, thus allowing them to do fund raising. Also, government entities are usually able to conduct fundraising activities for community programs.
  • Grants have been made available by the federal government to assist communities in their CERT programs. Grant information will be posted on this website as soon as it is available.

Other Links


The New York State Emergency Preparedness VISTA Project (NYSEPP) is looking for full-time volunteers to commit to one year of national service. VISTA Members will empower the K-12 population and local community agencies with knowledge and resources to help prepare low-income communities for both natural and man-made emergency situations. The mission of the AmeriCorps*VISTA national program is to bring individuals and communities out of poverty.

Throughout the year of national service, AmeriCorps*VISTA members will expand the outreach of community disaster education programs in the local low-income community, create and support American Red Cross emergency preparedness clubs in the K-12 population, engage the collegiate population in the local community through preparedness activities, develop and share new resources with community partners, recruit and train volunteers from low-income and surrounding communities, and develop plans to increase knowledge and resources for emergency preparedness.

AmeriCorps*VISTA is a one-year, full-time volunteer experience. Members receive a small living stipend and medical benefits. Following a successful year, AmeriCorps*VISTA members have the option of either a $1,200 stipend or an education award of $4,725. AmeriCorps*VISTA members are not permitted to participate in outside employment or schooling while in service. Project sites provide members with reimbursement for service-related travel, training opportunities, work space and materials, and access to a network of community resources.

The NYS Emergency Preparedness Project is recruiting fifteen (15) members to be placed across New York State in American Red Cross Chapters. Locations include:

  • Allegany County Chapter - Wellsville
  • Cayuga County Chapter - Auburn
  • Finger Lakes Chapter - Seneca Falls
  • Greater New York Chapter - Manhattan and Bronx
  • Mohawk Valley Chapter - Herkimer
  • North Country Chapter- Plattsburg
  • Northern Livingston Chapter - Geneseo
  • Onondaga-Oswego Chapter - Oswego and Syracuse
  • Southern Tier Chapter - Binghamton
  • Tompkins County Chapter - Ithaca
  • Ulster County Chapter -Poughkeepsie
  • Yates County Chapter - Penn Yan

For more information on this project, please contact:

Diane Eschbacher - Phone: (518) 292-2436 or E-mail: dhart@dhses.ny.gov


Visit: www.americorps.org - Project # 07VSANY005-0

New Yorkers Volunteer

Visit www.NewYorkersVolunteer.ny.gov to learn how you can join the thousands of New Yorkers who are volunteering in their local communities to address critical needs.