The Community Preparedness Toolkit provides step-by-step directions along with useful resources for making your community, safer, more resilient, and better prepared. The Community Preparedness Toolkit can be used to develop a community-based approach to preparedness, such as a Citizen Corps Council. Citizen Corps is FEMA's grassroots strategy to bring together government and community leaders to involve citizens in all-hazards emergency preparedness and resilience. Citizen Corps asks you to embrace the personal responsibility to be prepared; to get training in first aid and emergency skills; and to volunteer to support local emergency responders, disaster relief, and community safety.
Use the navigation menu to the right to click through the steps. Useful resources are provided at the bottom of many pages. If you have questions or feedback, please contact us.
Community Preparedness: The Facts
Research on preparedness shows that people who believe themselves "prepared" for disasters often aren't as prepared as they think. Forty percent of survey respondents did not have household plans, 80 percent had not conducted home evacuation drills, and nearly 60 percent did not know their community's evacuation routes.
Nearly 20 percent of survey respondents reported having a disability that would affect their capacity to respond to an emergency situation, but shockingly only one out of four of them had made arrangements specific to their disability to help them respond safely in the event of an emergency.
Our nation's emergency managers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, EMT/paramedics, and other emergency responders do an incredible job of keeping us safe, but they can't do it alone. We must all embrace our individual responsibility to be prepared – in doing so, we contribute to the safety and security of the nation as well.
Becoming more prepared in case of an emergency is easier than you might think. Whether it's your home, your neighborhood, your place of business, or your school, you can take a few simple steps to prepare your community. This toolkit gives you the basics for getting started.
While no two projects will be the same, successful projects will share a few common practices. We encourage you to incorporate the following elements into your service project:
- Create a team with your friends and neighbors to share the effort;
- Set outcome-based goals and track your progress to those goals;
- Celebrate your successes together.
The Challenge: Many community-based organizations do not have enough capacity to manage a large number of volunteers, so they need you to organize yourself in coordination with them. This tool kit is designed to either help you organize a group and be a positive addition to a community-based organization, or, if such an organization does not exist, to be a well-organized independently-run group that fills a gap in the community.
A step-by-step guide to getting started and executing service activities follows.
STEP ONE: Identify Local Partners
Check out the organizations already doing good work. Many existing service groups have identified community needs and have built the expertise to provide solutions. A few phone calls or scanning a few websites can produce all the information you need to know about your options.
- Find Citizen Corps Councils, USAonWatch (Neighborhood Watch) teams, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Fire Corps units, Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) units, and Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units and ask them what you can do to prepare and train yourself and your community for disasters.
- You can also get in touch with your local fire department, police department, paramedics, or emergency management agency to discuss ways to prepare your community and improve its capacity to respond to and recover from disaster.
- Contact local chapters of Citizen Corps Affiliates, such as the American Red Cross and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster for local disaster preparedness and response service opportunities. Be sure to ask the organization for items they might need. Find more information by clicking here.
- Once you’ve identified the appropriate community-based organizations, search their website or give them a call to see how you can help, or how you can better prepare yourself and your community.
- Sample Phone Script (PDF)
STEP TWO: Build a Team
Citizen Corps Council Meetings
Citizen Corps Council meetings are a valuable tactic for recruiting volunteers and building a team. Citizen Corps Council meetings allow community members to share their concerns and join together to work for progress. Within the room, you already have all the tools you need to enact change on a local level. Every attendee can contribute time or resources or leadership abilities.
Your council meeting will help you identify your leadership team. The people that are committed enough to come to your council meeting should be considered potential leaders of the initiatives being implemented in their communities.
As a council meeting host, invite people from your social network to participate in a discussion about your community, pressing needs, and potential solutions. Council meetings often engage people new to service and unclear about next steps. Serving with the support of a team will increase the ease and comfort of many new volunteers.
Building community through council meetings is a critical step toward improving individual and community preparedness.
- Choose and plan a service project.
- Set measurable group and personal goals for your project.
- Identify 5 attendees to be leaders.
- Plan the next meeting of the leadership team and identify next steps for each leader.
- Obtain commitments from all attendees to volunteer on a regular basis in the days and weeks leading up to your service project.
- To have 20 people attend, you will need to invite 50. Brainstorm a list of 50 people to invite. Include your friends, family, members of your faith group, colleagues, book club attendees, etc.
- Make calls to the 50 people on your list to invite them to your house meeting. Remember that phone calls are much more effective than a mass email.
- Post your house meeting on our site or Serve.gov and invite local residents interested in volunteering to attend.
- Browse our site or Serve.gov to see what needs in your community aren’t being met and which organizations you might be able to partner with. Take some preliminary steps to identify local partners already working in the community.
- Prepare necessary materials.
- Be prepared to give a short explanation of why you became involved/what inspired you to serve.
- Consider how you most want to serve your community. President Obama has identified four target areas for summer service: health, education, community renewal, and energy and environment. What does your community most need?
- Thank attendees and get their pledge to serve.
- Organize a follow-up volunteer leadership meeting with your new team to take next steps.
STEP THREE: Set Goals
Individuals must take seriously the responsibility of being prepared to survive for three days on their own, to create evacuation and shelter plans for themselves and their families, and to get out of harm’s way when necessary. Citizens must be engaged and educated about what they should expect from their government during emergencies as well as what the government expects from them in the form of advance preparation and responsible action. Community safety and personal preparedness is vital to the overall preparedness of the United States, and its ability to withstand and recover from natural disasters, man-made emergencies, economic downturns, and terrorist attacks.
Tips on Setting Concrete Goals
Setting goals helps you be accountable to yourself and also increases accountability within a group. Clear goals at the beginning of a project will also help you determine how your project will work and what role group members can play. Once goals are set, you can track your progress, compare your results with other group members, and figure out what works best so everyone can meet (or exceed) their goals.
Set a service goal and hold yourself accountable. After you have prepared yourself and your family, commit as an individual and as a team to help others:
- Help at least three people who may need additional assistance in preparing for emergencies (including the frail, elderly, individuals with disabilities, and others with special needs).
- Conduct a safety drill at home, at work, at school, or at your house of worship.
- Take a training class in lifesaving skills (CPR, first aid) or emergency response (CERT).
- Volunteer to help your local emergency responders.
Any of these activities get us one step closer to a safer and more resilient nation. Set your goals high to stretch yourself. Then keep track of how you are doing and have someone responsible for updating the group on how you are progressing toward your goals. You’ll be surprised at how much you can do when you commit, focus, and follow through. Get involved in National Preparedness Month activities in your community. Then keep your commitment. Let’s see what we can do together!
- As an individual, I will commit to preparing myself and my family this year, including creating a family disaster plan and making sure there are emergency supply kits at my home, my place of work, and in my car.
- As a team, we will assemble ___ emergency supply kits for others.
- As an individual, I will talk to ___ friends, family members, neighbors, and co-workers about our personal responsibility to be prepared.
- As a team, we will commit to ___ number of hours volunteering in disaster preparedness and response.
- As a team, we will organize ___ disaster drills for evacuating and sheltering-in-place.
- As an individual, I will complete ___ training in life saving skills.
- As a team, we will learn about the threats most likely to affect our community.
STEP FOUR: Serve Your Community
- Learn about the hazards most likely to affect your community and their appropriate responses.
- Learn about local emergency response plans, drills, and exercises.
- Find out what your community is doing to prepare.
- Are You Ready?
- National Safety Council
- Home Safety Council
- Community Emergency Response Teams
- Fire Corps
- Medical Reserve Corps
- USAonWatch/Neighborhood Watch
- Volunteers in Police Service
- Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools
- Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools
Talk About It
- Host a house meeting with your family, neighbors, co-workers, and faith-based colleagues.
- Get in touch with your local emergency management agency, fire department, police or sheriff’s department, EMTs/paramedics, or other emergency responders to send an expert to come speak at your event.
- Create an event that promotes safety and preparedness and raises awareness.
- Sponsor a forum, like a town hall meeting that encourages people from throughout the community to discuss disaster preparedness and response and to exchange information and ideas.
Act on It
- Help prepare friends and family. Visit the websites of organizations and government programs like Ready.gov and the National Safety Council to learn more about how you can prepare for and respond to disaster. Visit the website of the Home Safety Council to learn how you can make your home safer for you and your family.
- Get started by finding Citizen Corps Councils and programs near you.
- Volunteer with one of the National Citizen Corps partners or affiliates
- Participate in crime prevention and reporting.
- Take classes in lifesaving skills, such as CPR/AED and first aid, or in emergency response, such as CERT.
- Volunteer to support first responders, disaster relief groups, and community safety organizations.
- Work with parent-teacher organizations to discuss how you can support their emergency plans and drills. The Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools and Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools will have information on school emergency preparedness and response.
STEP FIVE: Celebrate Success
Your service matters and should be celebrated. Tell us your story of service here or at Serve.gov.
Also, be sure to keep track of what worked for you during the planning and implementation of your project and what could be improved. You can learn from this service project when you organize your next service project!
Spread the Service
After every event, thank your volunteers and sign them up for the next event. When you help others prepare, ask them to “pay it forward” by talking to their friends and family about the importance of preparing, training, and drills.