Keeping Watch

Firefighter trainee Brian Hilty, seated left, relaxes as CERT members Dennis Chick, of the Village of Duval, and Steve Rappaport, of the Village of DeSoto, check his vitals after Hilty finished the first round of a live fire training exercise for Class 1803 at the Citrus County Fire Training Center.

On the night of Oct. 28, Community Watch Patrol Driver D.J. Haldeman drove past a home with the garage door open. In line with procedure, he checked to make sure the garage was empty, then called it in to dispatch. Inside the home, Joe Soltis was having a heart attack. When Community Watch called the homeowners to let them know the garage door was open, Soltis’ father-in-law, Barney Moore, found him, and he was able to get medical attention. That might not have happened if Haldeman hadn’t made his call.

More than 600 Villagers either work for Community Watch or volunteer with groups like the Community Emergency Response Team of The Villages or local law enforcement agencies, supplementing local first responders and providing an added security blanket around The Villages. Auxiliary first responders improve civic engagement and collaboration between police and fire departments and the communities they serve, according to an article co-authored by the University of Central Florida’s Ross Wolf, and Thomas Bryer, of UCF and Kaunas University of Technology, in Kaunas, Lithuania.

The local CERT has responded to emergencies ranging from disaster recovery to cases of dehydration. They use their training to assist their community until first responders can arrive.

Some law enforcement agencies use volunteer COPs, or Citizens on Patrol, civilians who extend the agencies’ presence in the communities they serve. Volunteers can provide valuable experience and act as a bridge between cops and those they serve.

Community Watch’s 380 paid staff members act as eyes and ears within the community. Staff patrol The Villages’s 70 square miles and monitor 105 gates, 23 of w

Read this story and many others in Sunday’s edition of the Daily Sun.