Pinellas County Emergency Management Volunteer Opportunities
Part of the Tidings TideWatch Storm Center™ in affiliation with the National Weather Service's NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador™ initiative is to work with Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough County emergency management teams. Below please find the first in a series where we will be actively recruiting you - the Tidings Media readers - to get involved locally. You can be a Pinellas County weather ambassador to your own community! Read below and find a place to get involved.
Whole Community Approach
Preparing for and recovering from disaster is a team effort. In partnership with Pinellas County, businesses, community groups, faith-based organizations and volunteers help with outreach, emergency response and disaster recovery. We use resources from the whole community to prepare our neighborhoods to be more resilient.
- Community businesses fund projects, provide volunteers, facilitate educational programs and organize events to benefit vulnerable areas.
- Chambers of commerce, professional organizations and industry experts assist with communications. When a storm is approaching, they help other business people, clients and visitors to prepare.
- After a disaster, residents depend on businesses to reopen and resume their service to the community. Pinellas County works with local businesses to develop sound emergency plans so they can do just that.
- Neighborhood and community associations host educational presentations for residents in their areas.
- Members of those associations collect supplies and help their neighbors prepare their homes and yards.
- Emergency Management is always looking for Disaster Ambassadors. Contact us know if you want to be involved with preparedness efforts in your community.
Faith-based organizations have longstanding relationships with their members. Trusted faith leaders help us to communicate with their members during evacuations or immediately following an emergency. This relationship helps keep community members prepared, and it helps us to more effectively deliver resources to them in the aftermath of a disaster.
Faith-Based Community Survey
If you are a leader of a faith-based organization, please take a moment to fill out the Emergency Contact and Resource Survey. We use your contact information to communicate with you throughout the year. The information you provide on available resources is recorded so that we can reach out to you during a disaster if there is a way you can help our community members. If you have taken the survey before, you can update your contact information by re-taking the survey.
Amateur Radio Operators
Eligible participants must be Licensed Amateur Radio Operators. This group assists with alternate communications to Pinellas County Emergency Management for events and exercises. It also assists in public events and outreach activities promoting Emergency Management and Pinellas County. Activities, training and support are available throughout the year. For information, email email@example.com or call 727-464-3800.
Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD)
Emergency Management started Pinellas County’s first VOAD in 2021. Based on the principles of communication, coordination, collaboration, and cooperation, our county’s VOAD represents more than 100 faith- and community-based organizations and is supported by the Florida VOAD and National VOAD. For information on how you can get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 727-464-5500.
Volunteers in Pinellas (VIP)
There are a number of opportunities to volunteer for Pinellas County through the Volunteers in Pinellas (VIP) program. We strive to match your talents with the in-person, internship and remote opportunities available. All volunteers for the county are required to complete a background check, which the county provides.
VIPs in Disaster
The Volunteers in Pinellas During Disasters program is open to individuals and groups who are interested in playing a role in emergency management. All participants must register as a county volunteer and complete a background check. Some of the responsibilities include:
- Shelter Staff: During an evacuation, residents who depend on public shelters also depend on county staff and volunteers. Shelter staff may be assigned to registration, dormitory, food service and general assistance. Shelters are located throughout the county, and they require staff before, during and after an event.
- Amateur Radio Operators: Eligible participants must be Licensed Amateur Radio Technicians. This group provides backup communications to Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in situations where normal communications are interrupted. They also staff emergency shelters and municipal EOCs during emergencies. Activities, training and support are available throughout the year.
- County Information Center (CIC) Support Staff: The CIC is a call center located in the EOC and opens during emergencies. Call takers work as a team and individually to provide information and answers to callers. The ideal volunteer for this position is someone who has experience in taking calls, is comfortable using a computer and can be patient and empathetic during stressful times.
- Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Support Staff: The duties of EOC support staff vary. For example, volunteers may help answer phones for the EOC Operations Desk or contact health care facilities for the Health Care Desk. This position requires flexibility, comfort with phones and computers, and the ability to stay calm in a busy atmosphere.
- Volunteer Assistant Safety Officers: This assignment is located in the field, at Points of Distribution (POD) locations throughout the county. Volunteer assistant safety officers conduct field inspections to determine the safety of work conditions, make recommendations, conduct safety evaluations and perform other duties related to the safety of the sites.
Our Emergency Management ambassadors (EMbassadors) assist with education and outreach and help in various ways:
- All-hazards presentations, both in person and virtually
- Outreach events to talk to citizens about emergency preparedness
- Projects such as distributing Hurricane/Hygiene Kits to residents
- Programs such as student visits or special events
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)
One of the county’s most active program is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). The program educates volunteers about disaster preparedness and trains them in basic disaster response skills. Each of Pinellas County’s teams focus on the needs of their community and perform specific functions. For information on CERT in Pinellas County, email CERT@pinellascounty.org.
How You Can Help
Education is the key to being prepared. If you would like an EMbassador to speak to your organization, school or office about preparedness, submit a Speaker Request Form.
Not everyone has family in the area or friends with whom they can stay during an evacuation. You can help by setting up a Host Home program within your organization, house of worship, business or other affiliated group. The organizer of the Host Home program distributes a survey to find out more about people’s lifestyle—pets, children, habits—and the organizer makes a recommendation on pairs who seem most compatible. Then those two people, families or groups can make plans to stay with one or the other during an evacuation. For a Host Home program toolkit, email email@example.com.
Billboard Emergency Alert System
If your business, community center or house of worship has an electronic billboard, then you can sign up to be a partner with the Billboard Emergency Alert System. Emergency Management will send you with urgent messaging when appropriate. Share the message on your sign to help our community stay informed. Complete the Business Contact Information Form for more information.
The Adopt-A-Shelter program is designed for community organizations, neighborhood associations, faith-based organizations, businesses or clubs that may have a group of people who are interested in working together to staff a shelter. Emergency shelters are open before, during and after an emergency. In a large-scale event, we might not have as many volunteers as we need to properly staff each shelter. A group that volunteers together fills that urgent need and can plan, prepare, train and organize assignments. Emergency Management provides training and support.
Host a Shelter
Many faith-based and business locations are in non-evacuation areas, have buildings that can withstand high winds, and are large enough to shelter a substantial number of people. If you are willing and have the staff to do it, then you can host a shelter. Pinellas County Emergency Management can help with assessing your building, planning for an emergency shelter and training your staff. You could have a shelter for your own members and employees, or you may open it to the public. Some organizations may be able to help a specific neighborhood or mobile home park. The program can be tailored to your own needs.