St. Lawrence County's first responders could be getting some volunteer help with Citizens Corps
Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 12:03 pm

By JIMMY LAWTON

CANTON -- Fire departments, police officers and first responders may get some relief if the St. Lawrence County emergency services director’s plans to form a Citizens Corps come to fruition.

Emergency Services Director Joseph Gilbert said the organization would free up emergency service workers by allowing citizens to take action when problems arise.

"They wouldn't be fighting fires or responding to accidents, they would perform other functions like volunteering at emergency shelter operations or helping find a child that is lost in the woods," he said.

The Citizen Corps program was created under the Department of Homeland Security. It provides training to volunteers who can then assist in the recovery after a disaster.

Gilbert said the entity would not be funded by the county or be under its supervision.

"It would be its own 501(c)3 non-profit group," he said.

Currently a committee of seven community members are working to establish the St. Lawrence County Citizens Corps, which Gilbert says would be the 18th such organization in New York State.

"They are becoming more and more common," he said.

Gilbert says enlisting the help of the public can relieve the strain on existing responders and fire departments. He said members of the group would need training to ensure they could perform their duties safely and know the proper chain of command for reporting and responding.

"There are numerous functions this group could provide," he said.

Gilbert said the idea is still in the fledgling stages, but the committee is hoping to establish a Citizens Corps by next summer.

Gilbert said the committee is reaching out for a grant that would cover the costs of training.