SOUTH SHORE: Grant helps expand CERT services

Published on: August 1, 2018

State grant enables South County Communities CERT to expand activities

By PHYLLIS HODGES

BILL HODGES PHOTO
From left: South County Communities CERT President Ira Arman; Vice President Carlos Cortes; and Treasurer Hud Richards are all smiles after receiving a $5,000 grant from Volunteer Florida.

The South County Communities Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) plans to use a $5,000 state grant received in July for additional volunteer training and equipment, said President Ira Arman. The group credits Vice President Carlos Cortes for his diligence in applying to Volunteer Florida for funding. Cortes was assisted by Hud Richards in what they called an arduous process, especially since it was a “first time” for them. They are the only Hillsborough County group emerging from a field of 55 organizations statewide vying for the 24 awards of $5,000 each.  

Community Emergency Response Team is a national organization that uses area residents to complement professional fire and police organizations in emergency situations when uniformed fire, rescue and medical services are overwhelmed. In 2017, they logged 1,000 volunteer hours. Natural disasters are the extreme, but on an everyday basis, the local groups stay active promoting programs to prepare their community for emergencies and supporting first responders and other government agencies. For example, they recently marshalled two dozen members to search for a lost person in Sun City Center and plan to soon help distribute weather radios and hurricane guides to vulnerable communities such as mobile home parks. They are seen often at community events directing traffic, offering information, etc. 

South County Communities CERT is a self-sustained organization. “We are always looking for volunteers, and there is a job for everybody,” Arman said, pointing to various administrative support tasks as well as field duties. They train new members and then offer advanced training to members who wish to instruct. Classes are taught hands-on, so techniques can be practiced with real equipment and supplies. He said that volunteers pay nothing; the team pays the basic training cost of about $45 per person or $85 for advanced courses. The Volunteer Florida funding will enable them to boost training levels and recruiting efforts and to host more large-scale events like countywide mass casualty exercises. 

Participation in CERT, a 501(c)3 corporation with about 100 members from around Tampa Bay is strictly voluntary. Arman encourages anyone interested in learning more about CERT activities to attend a membership meeting on the third Thursday of each month (January through October). They meet at 6:30 p.m. at the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce, 1651 Sun City Center Plaza. Visit www.scccert.com for more information, or call Arman at 813-918-6710.

Volunteer Florida is the governor’s lead agency for promoting volunteerism and philanthropy. It administers Florida’s CERT/Citizen Corps program funding in partnership with the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It administers $32 million in federal, state and local funding to connect individuals, families and businesses with opportunities to serve their communities. Additionally, Volunteer Florida serves as the state’s lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during and after disasters, working closely with the Florida Division of Emergency Management and their local partners to make Florida communities smarter, safer and stronger.

To learn more, visit www.VolunteerFlorida.org.

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