Local Group Organizes for Homeland Security Duty

May 14, 2003
Posted at: 10:20 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Craighead County's Office of Emergency Management is taking a new approach in dealing with potential disasters. It is being done with the help of ordinary citizens.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush launched various measures to strengthen homeland security. One of those measures is the establishment of Citizen Corps around the nation to deal with possible threats at home.

"It is part of Homeland Security," county emergency management coordinator Jack Richardson said. "It is the citizens side of homeland security. Outside of those who are trained first responders, it's the rest of the people."

The main goal of the Citizen Corps is raise community awareness for preventing and handling threats of terrorism, crime, and disaster that could potentially strike. The Craighead County chapter held its first meeting Wednesday.

"Our job is going to be to coordinate the activities of the agencies that are out there already," Richardson said. "The volunteer agencies, and further the education of the citizens on how to take care of themselves and their community."

According to Jonesboro chapter chairperson Dr. Charles Coleman, the purpose of the council's first meeting was very specific: "To get individuals in the community that want to be involved in getting this organization started."

According to Craighead County Judge Dale Haas, the importance of a local Citizen Corps chapter will help the county respond to any tragic event that befalls the area.

"It will help us to organize," Haas said. "(It will) hopefully save lives and prevent further damage if we do have a disaster."

Coleman says the next step for the council will be to draft a mission statement and make the community more aware of its purpose.