Although he has already dedicated his life to the service of Prince George’s County by working as a police officer, Det. Chris Johnson of Bowie wants to do more.
An idea came to him a few years ago, when he saw the news coverage of the F5 tornado that flattened Joplin, MO. Volunteers were flooding to the area, and Johnson realized there was no organization in place to help emergency personnel come together and volunteer at disaster sites during times of need.
“There are a lot of people in these situations that want to go out, that want to help and they have a specific training that has already been done so they know how to handle themselves in a disaster type situation,” said Johnson.
And that’s where the vision for Heroes for the Homeland was born. Heroes for the Homeland is a nonprofit organization that mobilizes fully self-sustained teams of emergency services personnel from Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties and sends them into disaster stricken areas to help.
“Our primary mission is to get in the area and take care of the local EMS because if they can get up and running fast, they can help themselves faster,” said Johnson, who said taking care of the first responders and their families is important so that they can take care of their communities.
After getting the local EMS back on the board, the secondary goal of Heroes for the Homeland is to help the community by providing chainsaws, clean up, water and whatever else is needed to aid in relief efforts.
What makes Heroes for the Homeland unique is the fact that their goal is to be a fully self-sustained disaster relief effort—providing their own food, shelter and water for the duration of their stay.
Why fully sustainable? Johnson learned from a family friend and retired FEMA worker that when relief workers flood disaster areas, they quickly use up resources that are needed by the community, like hotels for shelter, food and water. Heroes for the Homeland does not want to add any additional stress to an already affected area, which is why they will bring their own shelter and supplies along with them.
Heroes for the Homeland has been more than a year in the making. Johnson hopes to have the group ready to mobilize by January 2013, but the expenses involved with running a fully sustained disaster relief organization are high.
To help raise funds for their mission, Firehouse Subs in Crofton will donate a portion of the proceeds of sales on every Monday night in October to Heroes for the Homeland. To participate, customers have to purchase their food between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Mondays this month and mention the organization.
Eventually, Johnson hopes to have six offices nationwide that are equipped to deploy 15 to 40 volunteers to disaster sites, though he predicts this is years down the road.