There have been several press releases concerning response for Hurricane Gustav. The Neighbors Helping Neighbors blog would like to show our support to all the responders.
From the outside looking in, it may be unclear to the everyday citizen if those volunteer efforts are coordinated or if they are being handled by individual agencies that have a service to provide, such as the Red Cross for Sheltering, Mass Care, and Emergency Response.
In a recent press release Virginia “Governor Kaine asks any volunteers or first responders to refrain from self-deploying to the area. Those who wish to help should contact a volunteer organization with a response mission, such as those listed on the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) Web site, http://www.nvoad.org/.”
It was surprising to see that first responders should reach out to Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). There was no mention of Citizen Corps, as Virginia Citizen Corps falls under the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM).
VOAD is listed as, “Non-Government Assistance” and “Faith-Based Organizations”.
According to the VDEM website, “Virginia Citizen Corps, part of the national Citizen Corps program, gets Virginia citizens directly involved in homeland security and emergency preparedness. The program allows you to help your community by volunteering some of your time, energy and skills to emergency preparedness and response activities.”
How can those trained in these programs for “your community” help other areas that need assistance?
* Would an EMS or Fire first responder contact VOAD or would they work through their local or state emergency management agency? Generally when we think of first responders, we think of the trained professionals.
* What about all the volunteers who have been trained through Citizen Corps programs? Would they go directly to VOAD? Should their response be coordinated through local or state level Citizen Corps? If you go to the NVOAD website and search for Citizen Corps, nothing is found.
As mentioned by several Neighbors Helping Neighbors blog readers, there still needs to be better coordination between volunteer organizations, not just at the local level, but at the State and National Level as well.
While it is understood that response is generally coordinated at the local or state level, volunteers need to understand how they can respond to situations in other parts of the nation.
As we discussed in the ICS Training for Barangay captains, “Hats of Incident Management”, Who’s In Charge? The same applies to volunteer organizations.
Who’s In Charge (Of The Volunteers)?
* If the Virginia press release directed people to their local Citizen Corps organizations, would that be effective? Or would we now have individual city and county level organizations coordinating individual response?
These comments are not meant to discourage those who are interested in volunteering. They are just a few questions that our readers have been asking. While our feedback was included in the National Response Framework, additional guidance and resources needs to be provided to trained volunteers.
As mentioned by a reader, “do not take my word for it”, take a look at some of the frustration, some of which has been pretty obvious in recent weeks on this blog.
If you are interested in volunteering in the Gustav response or any emergency, please “contact a volunteer organization with a response mission”, start with a member VOAD organization or as NVOAD suggests, work through http://www.1800volunteer.org/, “to connect to a volunteer center in your community.”
If nothing else, the press release should create increased awareness about an often unspoken disaster response organization. VOAD has been quite effective in times of need.
There are other organizations such as your local Red Cross, who can always use volunteers to go through their training to become members of their Disaster Action Teams (DAT).
Think about all the time you are spending trying to help out your neighbors in other cities.
* Would additional guidance in the National Response Framework be the answer? Should there be greater awareness of a single point for all volunteers to go to, such as http://www.1800volunteer.org/?
* Are there any immediate answers to these questions? As we are days away from a major hurricane to hit our shores, there is one thing clear,
now is not the time to be asking these questions.
And as we have said before, never forget to