Community camaraderie might be a foreign concept in some large cities, but Valley officials believe neighborhood bonding could mean the difference between life and death if disaster strikes.
The problem, though, in pitching such an idea is that Americans haven’t been asked to come together on such a large scale since World War II. In fact, recent history shows it often takes a disaster to unite citizens.
President Bush called on residents to form councils and work together in the face of tragedy on the heels of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Citizen Corps council program emerged as an umbrella over five other volunteer groups.
GETTING STARTED IN MESA
Volunteers from Mesa government, churches, schools, hospitals as well as police and fire departments gather four times a year to imagine worst-case scenarios and determine how they should handle them.
“The whole objective behind even having a council on the city level is to get this community dialogue put together, get all these different entities of the community talking to find out first of all what are our resources,” said Linda Bailey, Mesa police’s volunteer coordinator.
She said the council wants to be ready if terrorists attack, if a building collapses, if there is a mass power outage or if there’s a pandemic.
Bailey said the council needs to know who has heavy equipment, who is available on weekends and after-hours and who can help older and disabled people living alone.
AROUND THE EAST VALLEY
For some communities where councils have formed, the process has been productive. For others in Arizona, the process has been slow as volunteers seek to persuade residents to take time to plan for disaster in a state where disaster seems unlikely.
Chandler’s Citizen Corps council sprouted about two years ago and has worked with Bashas’ grocery chain to bring emergency preparedness to shoppers, who are reminded of the idea every time they look at a grocery bag, said Paul Sullivan, Chandler Fire Department battalion chief. They are now working to have the stores post lists of supplies needed for preparedness kits, Sullivan said.
Tempe’s Citizen Corps has been running for about 18 months. Council members have held a disaster preparedness event and provide advice on grants that could go to the city, said Arizona State University police assistant chief Jay Spradling, chairman of the group.
Other communities such as Gilbert are still working to bring leaders to the council. Gilbert is planning a recruiting meeting before the end of the year, said Sheri Gibbons, the town’s emergency manager.
Mesa’s Citizen Corps
What: Public council meeting
When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Mesa Fire Department volunteer center, 2830 E. Adobe St.