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Check Out Our Signature Event On Cogenerational Activism!
On May 22, more than 1,100 people registered to learn more about the important cogenerational work our 2023 Innovation Fellows are doing. These 15 leaders are bringing generations together to solve problems and bridge divides. And each one has a unique and inspiring...
This FEMA-Sponsored Program Is Strengthening Community Resilience While Building Intergenerational Connection
Bill Marvel is mobilizing an age-diverse group of volunteers to support disaster preparedness and relief efforts in Escambia County, Florida
What is your program called, and how does it work?
Be Ready Alliance Coordinating for Emergencies (BRACE) trains volunteers to help in disasters. BRACE serves as the Escambia County Certifying Agency for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), a FEMA-sponsored program that provides a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during a disaster situation. BRACE trains volunteers in basic disaster response skills, such as team organization, disaster medical operations, fire safety, and light search and rescue. The ability for certified volunteers to perform these activities frees up professional responders to focus their efforts on more complex, essential and critical tasks.
Why did you want to be part of Generations Serving Together, bringing cogeneration into national service?
The primary mission of our organization is to build the resilience of the entire community through free programs and services that enhance disaster preparedness and response. Our training is key to realizing this goal and requires volunteers across all generations to be successful. BRACE already has an age-diverse AmeriCorps VISTA team. We wanted to be part of Generations Serving Together to learn how we can better integrate the ideas, skill sets and passions of volunteers from different generations to make our whole organization more effective in serving the community when called upon.
What problem is your program trying to solve?
Our volunteers are not yet truly representative of the many generations in our community. The majority of the volunteers are Baby Boomers and Generation X with a few from the Silent Generation. The lack of representation from Millennial and Generation Z volunteers is significant and impacts the ability for our teams to fully understand community needs and to incorporate more effective and innovative approaches to recruiting, utilization and training.
We’re serious about fixing this problem and have taken a number of steps to expand the age diversity of our volunteers. We’re reaching out to local high school Navy Junior ROTC units, expanding our social media presence, reaching out to faith-based organizations and other community groups as partners, and establishing youth preparedness programs that involve elementary school students and their families.
What’s the value of a cogenerational approach?
Cogenerational volunteerism is absolutely imperative to the long-term success of the CERT program in Escambia County. We believe building a team of age-diverse volunteers provides the right mix of physical abilities, life experience, motivation, and leadership skills critical to providing community support when it’s needed most.
By incorporating more volunteers from Generation Y and Generation Z, for example, our team will be better equipped to handle the more physical requirements of the CERT mission — such as transporting victims to triage locations. And we’ll be able to incorporate the use of mobile apps to communicate and document activities. At the end of the day, that means BRACE will be able to confidently deploy a team that optimizes cogenerational volunteerism and the increase in mission effectiveness that comes with it.
What’s your big audacious vision? If you succeed, what change will we see?
In our vision of success, all our volunteers see the cogenerational make-up of the team as a core strength that enhances the ability of the team to safely and effectively accomplish its mission. If we succeed, the program will continue to expand as volunteers share their positive experiences with others in the community who want to be part of a team that values the ideas and experiences they bring to the effort. Ultimately, we see our cogenerational efforts as a way to grow future leaders in our community who embrace congenerational service as the norm.
How can people get involved with your work?
For those looking to volunteer in Escambia County, go here. Volunteers interested in supporting CERT in other communities can get involved here.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee! During long, tough days in the Navy, we used to say we survived on “Caffeine and Courage.”