PORTAGEVILLE - The U.S. Disaster Relief Command has formed a new disaster relief brigade for Southeast Missouri at Portageville and is looking for a few good men and women.
The USDRC helps offset manpower shortages in times of crisis by establishing first responder units across the U.S. with highly-trained volunteers who are willing to assist first responders and work under their direct supervision.
The non-profit, citizen-organized civilian organization was formed in 2004 "to provide disaster relief whenever needed," according to Col. Jackie Sproat, commanding officer for the new brigade. "We are not a militia, this is not an armed group, we are not associated with the military. We are a military-structured, uniformed organization."
Many USDRC members also serve their local community emergency response teams, Sproat said. And in those communities that don't have or are unable to support a CERT team, the USDRC is especially important.
The organization is a part of Citizen Corps and has applied to be a Citizen Corps chapter, according to Sproat. Coordinated nationally by the Department of Homeland Security, Citizen Corps is a federal program that oversees citizen volunteer organizations.
The new USDRC unit headquartered in Portageville was formed in August. "This brigade covers the eastern part of Missouri," Sproat said. It has been designated the 7th brigade of the 7th division of the 3rd corps.
The unit will work with the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency, area fire and law enforcement departments, rescue squads and other emergency response agencies to assist during a disaster or other crisis in this region.
The organization does not respond to hazardous materials disasters as it does not have the equipment, but it is available to assist in other natural and man-made disasters.
While the USDRC is designed to respond locally, skilled volunteers who are able do travel to assist with larger disasters that have a critical need for manpower. Sproat said officers of the new brigade recently worked with FEMA during hurricane responses, for example.
The new brigade is urgently seeking volunteers, especially retired military, law enforcement, government personnel or any interested person of any age and background willing to work as a member of a team to serve and protect local communities in times of need.
"We have a lot of positions to fill," Sproat said, adding that even those who think they don't have any usable skills should apply. "I'm sure there is something we can find for them. If they have the desire to volunteer, we'll find something for them."
It is strictly a volunteer organization but background checks are conducted, Sproat said, and all volunteers are required to participate in ongoing, free professional training classes focusing on disaster awareness.
Volunteers must be adults. "We have a cadet program as well that's for kids ages 10-17," Sproat said. There is no cost to become a part of the cadet program. "We teach them citizenship, communication, confidence and community service," she said.
Those interested are asked to contact the USDRC directly at www.usdrc.us or by calling toll free at 877-314-6964.