As of Tuesday, May 24, 2016
INDEPENDENCE — The Polk Fire District No. 1 board of directors decided Thursday to contribute to Polk County CERT (county emergency response team).
To be considered part of the CERT program, the district will contribute $4,000 as a donation for the fiscal year 2015-16, and incorporate $4,000 into its budget on an annual basis. Fire Chief Al Alcalde said the money could be taken out of the volunteer fund.
The money would help pay for CERT’s insurance costs. Right now, CERT Director Kimber Townsend receives an annual stipend of $12,000, paid for by the cities of Dallas, Independence and Monmouth.
With the additional contribution from Polk No. 1, it will ease costs by the city of Independence, which foots the majority of the bill for the program’s insurance costs.
Townsend said CERT’s insurance depends on how many hours volunteers work, and can fluctuate between $5,000 to $10,000 a year.
With the fire district’s contribution, Townsend said 97 CERT-trained volunteers will be at the ready to help the district in whatever capacity is needed, from traffic control during wildfire season to firefighter support and rehabilitation.
“If eight people come and need more help with food and more water, that’s an easy call to CERT,” Townsend said. “We can help with evacuations. We already support your district several times for training.”
Alcalde said contributing to the program will help the whole county be more prepared for a disaster or emergency situation.
“We do not have a good system for a major emergency,” Alcalde said. “That has to change. That’s not good.”
He pointed out that people in Polk County, including first responders, need to be prepared to maintain themselves for about two weeks. Joining the CERT program is a step toward better preparedness, Alcalde said.
“It provides an avenue for more volunteers in a major emergency, a major crisis,” he said. “Having the CERT teams would give us another avenue to provide better service — we’re not going to be able to help everyone.”
The board decided to make a donation to CERT for the 2015-16 year because the budget had already been prepared, but wanted to know how they could work it into the 2016-17 budget and on an annual basis.
For more on preparedness, see the June 1 Itemizer-Observer.