The College Station Fire Department, located in southeast Texas, is home to a group of dedicated Fire Corps volunteers who serve on the department's Community Action Response Team. The Community Action Response Team (C.A.R.T.) was established by the College Station Fire Department, in 2002, to provide customer assistance and emotional support to residents who are dealing with stressful situations following a fire or other emergency that requires a resident to evacuate their home.
Training the Team
The Community Action Response Team is staffed by 25 volunteers who are graduates of the College Station Citizen's Fire Academy. In College Station, the Citizens Fire Academy is a 14-week class which provides our citizens with in-depth training about the fire department and their own safety. Upon graduation, those citizens who choose to become "part of the fire department family;" are given a six-hour detailed C.A.R.T. training and an apprenticeship.
C.A.R.T. training includes the roles of team members, fire investigators and incident commanders; appropriate conversations with fire victims; fire scene privacy and safety; how to handle strange situations; dispatch paging procedures; protocols and community resources for fire victims.
Members of the team take monthly rotation schedules and are alerted by our 911 dispatchers through the fire department paging system. The team provides fire victims with ongoing assistance such as recovery information, shelter, packing boxes, clothes or any other needed services during and after an incident.
C.A.R.T in Action
The C.A.R.T. has responded to over 60 fire incidents since its inception in 2002. Several C.A.R.T. incidents have involved Texas A&M University students. At one recent fire on May 3, 2006, the team assisted 25 students whose apartments were damaged by a fire ignited by an unknown source. When a Texas A&M University Student is involved in a fire; the team coordinates assistance from the university's Critical Incident Response Team. C.A.R.T. also locates and "connects" fire victims to support from community and social service organizations like United Way's 211 or the Red Cross. We stand by victims for as long as necessary and follow up regularly.
We even bring a "Tool Kit" to all fire scenes, stocked with "After the Fire" information kits, blankets, water bottles, cell phones, phone books, flashlights, and gift cards to replenish lost clothing or shoes. The "Tool Kit" is suitcase donated by Target and the gift cards are purchased with money from a Walmart Foundation grant. The cell phone, water and other necesities come from the College Station Fire Department's budget.
For further information about the C.A.R.T. program, please contact Cindy Giedraitis, College Station Fire Department Public Education Officer at (979) 764-3712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A future article detailing the College Station Citizens Fire Academy will appear on Firehouse.com.
Cindy Giedraitis has served as the Public Education Officer for the College Station, TX, Fire Department for the last seven years. In that time, she has implemented several programs, including the Community Action Response Team and the Citizens Fire Academy. In 2003, Cindy was awarded the Lone Star Award from the Texas State Fire Chief's Association and she currently sits on the Executive Board of the NFPA Education Section.