Relief supplies organized by Rotary District 6990 arrive from Opa Locka, Florida, following Hurricane Irma. Monroe county has trained 250 volunteers over the past three months. The group is forming a non-profit to seek out donations of equipment. (ROB O’NEAL/The Citizen)
August 28, 2018

Interest in Monroe County’s recently implemented hurricane volunteer corps exceeded Emergency Management Director Marty Senterfitt’s expectations when the county launched the program less than three months ago.

More than 250 volunteers have completed the Community Emergency Response Team training program, and those volunteers are already working on forming a non-profit organization so they can seek funding and take donations of equipment.

The Monroe Emergency Reserve Corps was formed by the county’s Emergency Management Division in the months following Hurricane Irma. Residents were looking for a way to get back into the county quickly so they could help their community respond and recover from a hurricane.

“From Key West to Key Largo, there is a lot of momentum building,” Senterfitt said. “This is a completely citizen -driven response to a disaster.

“It is the citizens of Monroe County that are making this work.”

Volunteers went through an extensive training, which including disaster psychology. The goal of the program is to have the volunteers back in the community immediately after a storm and having them help, not hamper, recovery efforts, Senterfitt said. They have been told how much food and water they need so they do not become a drain on recovery efforts.

The volunteers have patterned themselves after the county’s emergency management support structure. The group has incident managers and even a public information officer and each contingent of the group will operate on a community level, patrolling neighborhoods and checking in on residents.

Senterfitt called them “the eyes and ears” for the county following a hurricane or other natural disaster.

“Our purpose is to keep our community safe,” said Anita Vick, who is the group’s public information officer. “We want to be part of the solution.”

Last week, more than 40 volunteers showed up at a Marathon meeting to discuss forming a non-profit group, which would allow them to raise funding to buy equipment and supplies and to accept donations of equipment.

The group will hold a formal meeting Sept. 24 to vote on its charter, Senterfitt said.

More information on volunteering can be found on the county’s emergency management web site http://monroecountyem.com.

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