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Dallas County preps for disaster

Even though the sun was shinning Saturday afternoon, the Citizens Corps Council was taking time to prepare for the worst.

The second annual “Be Ready Volunteer Drive” brought together more than 25 people from Dallas County in order to become organized in the event of a disaster.

“The Citizens Corps Council was formed about three or three and one-half years ago,” said Citizens Corps Council co-director Monica Newton. “Each year we have gotten progressively more organized.”

Newton, Ward 3 City Councilperson, said the Citizens Corps Council is already taking what it learned in last year’s drive and putting it to use.

“We invited the people from Prattville to come and talk about the Prattville tornado and how they covered that,” said Newton. “One of the lessons that we learned from that was that we really needed to find a central location for a volunteer reception center and start advertising the location of it so that in the event of a disaster, people will have a planned for it.”

The new volunteer reception center, the fellowship hall of Church Street United Methodist Church, played host to the drive this year.

Lectures, training and an EMA test were given to the people who showed up wanting to learn about emergency management.

“We are uniting our community,” said Dallas County Interim EMA Director Rhoda Abbott. “It’s a group effort. We are pulling together people that, in the event of an emergency, will know where to go and know what to do.”

Jeff Cothran, Director of the Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, is responsible for the volunteer reception center and the mobilization of volunteers.

“In the event of a disaster I would call Rhonda (Abbott) and let her know that we need to mobilize the VRC,” said Cothran. “Then when registered volunteers come we can get an armband on them, find out where they are needed, and then deploy them to where they need to go.”

Abbott said that the organization that was being preached is a big key in disaster response.

“You have to have organization or there is chaos,” said Abbott. “Organization is a must in a disaster. It speeds up the response when you have people who are trained an know what they are doing.”

Abbott said that if anyone who missed the meeting and wanted to join the Citizens Corps that he or she could contact the Dallas County EMA office at 334-874-2515 or go to training.fema.gov to take training courses to help out in disasters.