OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - Federal grants totaling $19 million will be
used to train volunteers in ways of helping out after disasters
such as the recent tornadoes that hit Kansas and Missouri.
Together, the two states are in line to get more than $600,000
as their share of the grants announced in Olathe on Thursday by
Michael D. Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management
Agency.
Brown made the announcement after touring tornado-ravaged parts
of nearby Wyandotte County, which was among the areas hit by the
May 4 tornadoes.
The federal funds will go toward training people to work on
Community Emergency Response Teams, such as ones in several Johnson
County communities that sent roughly 60 people into Kansas City,
Kan., after the tornadoes.
Volunteers typically get 20 hours of training in areas such as
light search-and-rescue operations, emergency medical care, and the
psychology of disaster victims. In disasters, they help first
responders by providing basic assistance to residents.
The teams, Brown said, "are really an incredible tool for first
responders to use to take some of the pressure off of them."
The national training program for volunteer teams began in 1993,
and FEMA now counts teams in more than 340 communities in all 50
states and five territories. In addition to the Johnson County
volunteers, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Lake Tapawingo and other
surrounding communities have formed a team in Missouri's Jackson
County..
The emergency management agency has a goal of doubling the
number of volunteers it has nationwide during the next two years,
up to a total of 400,000.
In Wyandotte County, Brown spent about an hour touring some of
the areas hardest hit by the tornadoes, including neighborhoods
around Leavenworth and Cernech roads. It was his second visit to
Wyandotte County since the May 4 twisters, which killed one person
in the county and caused thousands of dollars in property damage.
Brown expressed sympathy for victims still waiting to hear from
FEMA about assistance. The agency is advising patience for
residents who have applied for aid but have been notified that they
were not eligible. Residents may ultimately qualify, but they must
wait until they get final settlements from their insurance
companies, officials said.
"There is nothing more frustrating," Brown said, "than for us
to come out and talk about everything we can provide, how we can
help them, and then have them get stuck in that queue, and (the
aid) doesn't come out the other end for a while."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)