Harris County Citizen Corps empowering residents to be prepared for the past 15 years

Role of the Harris County Citizen Corps

The Harris County Citizen Corps is committed to creating opportunities for people to volunteer to help our community prepare for and respond to emergencies. The primary goal is to have all citizens participate in making neighborhoods safer by providing them the tools and training needed for preventing and handling threats of terrorism, crime, and disasters of all kinds.

Mission of the Harris County Citizen Corps

To make Harris County and the surrounding area communities safer, stronger and better prepared through service and volunteerism that focuses on emergency preparedness and public safety.

About Citizen Corps

After September 11, 2001, America witnessed a wellspring of selflessness and heroism. People in every corner of the country asked, "What can I do?" and "How can I help?" The Citizen Corps was created to help all Americans answer these questions through public education and outreach, training, and volunteer service. Citizen Corps Councils help drive local citizen participation by coordinating Citizen Corps programs, developing community action plans, assessing possible threats, and identifying local resources. On August 26, 2002, we created the Harris County Citizen Corps to answer the call to action and to give citizens the opportunity to participate in preparing for and responding to emergencies in our community.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program educates people about disaster preparedness and trains them in basic disaster response skills such as fire safety, light search and rescue, and disaster medical operations. Using their training, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event and can take a more active role in preparing their community.

The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) Program strengthens communities by helping medical, public health and other volunteers offer their expertise throughout the year as well as during local emergencies and other times of community need. MRC volunteers work in coordination with existing local emergency response programs and also supplement existing community public health initiatives such as outreach.

An expanded Neighborhood Watch Program (NWP) Program incorporates terrorism awareness education into its existing crime prevention mission, while also serving as a way to bring residents together to focus on emergency preparedness and emergency response training. The National Sheriffs’ Association administers this program.

Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) program works to enhance the capacity of state and local law enforcement to utilize volunteers. VIPS serves as a gateway to resources and information for and about law enforcement volunteer programs. VIPS is managed and implemented by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Fire Corps program will enhance the ability of fire departments to utilize citizen advocates and provide individuals with opportunities to support their local fire departments with their time and talent. Fire Corps is a partnership between The National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), the International Association of Fire Chiefs Volunteer Combination Officers Section (VCOS), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and the White House's USA Freedom Corps Office.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinates Citizen Corps nationally. FEMA also works closely with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to promote volunteer service activities that support homeland security and community safety. CNCS is a federal agency that operates nationwide service programs such as AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America.

Securing our safety and freedom requires that we all work together. Every American has a critical role to play. What can you do to help? In Harris County we ask our citizens to sign up for volunteer and training programs on our website at

Statistical information:

The program has consistently grown since its inception in 2002. The following elected officials; agencies and firms are working together on the Harris County Citizen Corps Council:

County Judge, Harris County (Chair)
Mayor, City of Houston
Sheriff, Harris County
Chief of Police, City of Houston Police Department
Fire Marshal, Harris County
Fire Chief, City of Houston Fire & Emergency Services
 Harris County Mayor's & Councils' Association
 Chairman, American Red Cross 
 President & CEO, Texas Medical Center
 Director of Public Affairs, Port of Houston
 President & CEO, Greater Houston Partnership
 Superintendent, Houston Independent School District
 President, United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast 
 Director, Crisis Chaplincy of Harris County
 Chief Executive Officer, Volunteer Houston
 Area Commander, Salvation Army
 Lead Organizer, The Metropolitan Organization          
 Director, Harris County Community Access Collaborative
 Site Manager, East Harris County Manufacturers Association
 Councilman, Harris County Mayors' & Councils' Association

Since our inception the Harris County Citizen Corps website has had over 12,000,000 visitors. The website allows citizens and partner agencies/groups to log volunteer service hours. To date volunteers and our partner agencies/groups have logged over 2,300,000 hours. The Citizen Corps is supported by a bilingual website located at, which supplies information about our programs.

Harris County Citizen Corps Program membership:

Number of local Community Emergency Response Team:
Current Teams:                 274
Citizens trained:         29,275
Number of local Volunteers In Police Service:
Current Agencies:       24     
Citizens trained:          21,984
Number of local Medical Reserve Corps:
Units:                          1
Current Citizens:         4,165
Number of local USA on Watch:
Current:         18 Agencies 351 neighborhoods
Citizens trained:           6,137
Number of local Fire Corps:
 Current:         24 Agencies 


The Harris County Citizen Corps has been recognized as a National Best Practice and also received the 2003 Best Practices for Innovation Award from the Texas Association of Counties, the 2006 Governors Volunteer Award for Community Capacity Builder, in 2007 received “The Presidents Call To Service Award” for coordinating the volunteer response during the Katrina relief effort, in 2008 was honored by the President at the White House, in 2009 received the National Citizen Corps Council Achievement Award for Volunteer Integration, in 2010 was a finalist for the National Citizen Corps Council Achievement Award for Outstanding Citizen Corps Council Award,– Serving a Population over 750,000 and in 2011 received the Jack Colley Citizen Corps Leadership Award, in 2013 received FEMA National Citizen Corps Honorable Mention for Outstanding Community Emergency response Team Initiatives.  Grants to Harris County Citizen Corps will continue the efforts to build upon the foundation put in place over the past ten years, with activities encompassing the county’s entire 1,778 square mile area and population of over 4.3 million, the third most populous in the nation.  Harris County Citizen Corps has established partnerships with the 54 Fire Departments, 34 incorporated cities and in excess of 100 law enforcement agencies located within the county’s limits.

Focus remains on developing and supporting opportunities for citizens wishing to engage in volunteer activities that include training to be prepared for, respond to, and recover from, natural/manmade disasters and/or acts of terrorism.