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OUR VIEW: Volunteers help make county safer

THE ISSUE: EMA plans open house centered on volunteer opportunities

OUR VIEW: Come on out to see if you're a good fit

In the event of floods, tornadoes and other emergencies, volunteers have played an important role in helping keep La Salle County communities safe.

From search and rescue to assisting with the care and welfare of animals, local volunteers for years have been using their skill sets to help before, during and after emergencies.

And later this month, you'll have the opportunity to meet some of these volunteers to hear firsthand about their efforts and whether any of these groups are a good fit for you.

April is Volunteers in Preparedness and Response Month and the La Salle County Emergency Management Agency will host a volunteer open house from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, April 22, at the Emergency Management building at 711 E. Etna Road, Ottawa.

The agency has a handful of emergency response teams, each with its own mission.

These volunteers have specific skill sets to aid them in their response efforts.

“It is because of our volunteers that we’re able to do everything we do during exercises, disaster response and long-term recovery; they’re a valuable asset not only to our agency but to the citizens of La Salle County," said Connie Brooks, La Salle County EMA Director.

La Salle County EMA volunteer teams include a La Salle County Animal Response Team that assists with the care and welfare of animals immediately following a disaster. They also participate in nuclear exercises for livestock food and water safety.

EMA’s Ground Search and Rescue team assists local law enforcement agencies in the search for evidence or missing people. Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services team is a group of amateur radio operators who can provide emergency communications in the event all other communications are down and they as well participate in nuclear exercises to test communications among municipal and county emergency operation centers. Skywarn volunteers have completed the severe weather spotter class at least every other year, spot from the safety of their own home and report what they’re seeing as weather systems move through La Salle County. Skywarn volunteers are not storm chasers. EMA volunteers also include damage assessment, community outreach, logistics, shelter operations, administrative assistance, communications and spontaneous volunteer management teams.

The April 22 open house will provide an opportunity to talk with some of the volunteers about what they do, training requirements and more. Tours of the EMA building and equipment bays will also be available. Anyone interested in volunteering will have the opportunity to complete an application onsite.

For more information or questions contact the Emergency Management Agency office at 815-433-5622 or lasallecoema@lasallecounty.org or visit lasallecountyema.org.

Even if you're on the fence about volunteering, we encourage you to stop in the open house to learn about the response teams. This also is an opportunity to thank the volunteers who provide such an important service to the county.

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