In the wake of Hurricane Isaac, voluntary agencies continue to be a vital member of the disaster response and recovery team, working alongside state and local emergency responders to help to address immediate needs of survivors. The public can play an important role with the emergency management team, volunteering their time, money, and energy to help disaster survivors and their families. There are ways individuals can support the ongoing response and recovery efforts, whether they live in one of the affected areas or across the country.
Administrator Fugate commented:
When disasters occur, local and national voluntary agencies are often among some of the first responders on the ground to help survivors with the support and resources that they need. In Isaac, we’ve already seen field kitchens opening in the hardest hit neighborhoods with thousands of meals being served; dozens of shelters available for temporary housing relief; and teams on the ground to assist with debris removal and temporary roofs.
FEMA is advising people who want to help survivors affected by Hurricane Isaac to do so through affiliation with the voluntary organizations that are active in the ongoing disaster operations.
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) serves as the primary point of contact for voluntary organization coordination in FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center, supporting Emergency Support Function 6 (Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services). National VOAD continues to work with a network of more than 50 national agencies and 55 state and territorial VOADs providing countless volunteers and services to support response and recovery efforts.
National VOAD members including voluntary, non-profit and faith-based organizations are working closely with the state and communities to assist with providing mobile feeding in areas where there are power outages, assist with debris removal and, as needed, to support with temporary roofing for disaster survivors.
Examples of ongoing work include:
- The American Red Cross has opened shelters in several Gulf Coast states and has been mobilizing trained disaster workers across the region. Sunday night about 660 people stayed in 18 Red Cross or community shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi and thousands of Red Cross disaster workers are lending a hand. Almost 200 emergency response vehicles are traveling through affected neighborhoods, distributing hot meals and relief supplies. More than 193,000 meals and snacks have already been served.
- With a large response effort spanning multiple states, the Red Cross is working closely with government agencies and community organizations to coordinate this multi-state relief response. Partners like AmeriCorps, Islamic Relief USA, NAACP and the National Baptist Convention USA are assisting to provide help and comfort. In addition, a number of companies such as Spectrum Brands, Walgreens, Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Vision Services, have contributed items such as insect repellent, bottled water and snacks.
- Salvation Army teams in Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana have distributed over 34,419 meals, 41,977 drinks, 26,275 snacks, 364 comfort kits, operated 25 mobile feeding units, 1 fixed feeding kitchen, provided emotional and spiritual care to 890 individuals, and have put in 7,377 hours of service.
- Habitat for Humanity International reported local Habitats are checking on homes and conducting assessments in their communities and is engaged in dialog with Louisiana and Mississippi VOAD and local governments on clean-up efforts.
- NECHAMA, a Jewish non-profit social service organization, has partnered with All Hands Volunteers along the coast to coordinate spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers to assist with debris removal and muck-outs.
- United Way is standing up Volunteer Reception Centers to intake the unaffiliated volunteers from other states and tie them in with established organizations performing response and recovery operations.
- Team Rubicon, an organization which unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with emergency responders, has provided teams of volunteers to assist local authorities with road openings, debris removal, and logistics coordination.
- Islamic Circle of North America had opened Masjid shelters and hosts located in Baton Rouge, LA; Lafayette, LA; Jackson, MS; and Beaumont, TX; with a total population of over 60 individuals. These shelters provided gender-segregated sleeping space, catered food to meet the dietary needs, congregational prayer space, and common knowledge of practicing Muslims, and vouchers for local hotel accommodations.
- Louisiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (LA VOAD) continues to work with the mass feeding team to support the delivery of hot meals to Point of Distribution Sites (PODS). Operation Blessing, Southern Baptist Men, Convoy of Hope and many others are supporting the State’s effort.
- As of September 1, 2012 Adventist Community Services mobile unit has served 1198 of clothing kits (which include socks, underwear, pants, and t-shirts), care kits, and blankets at the Jewella Shelter in Shreveport, LA.
- Mississippi Southern Baptists (MSB) has two field kitchens supporting mobile feeding along the coast and has served in excess of 4,500 meals and snacks. Feeding is expected to continue through the end of this week. MSB also is assisting residents with chain saw and debris removal teams and is also assisting with a temporary roofing team applying plastic sheeting. Living Word Baptist Church has been assisting with muck outs and debris removal.
- Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Camp Victor are providing volunteer housing for groups coming in to assist in response and recovery activities.
The activities of the voluntary agencies are far reaching and anyone interested in providing assistance to Isaac survivors may visit the National VOAD website at www.nvoad.org to learn more. Individuals’ support during this time goes a far way to helping these communities recover, and according to the National VOAD, there are several ways to help disaster survivors. They include:
- Donation of Cash – A financial contribution to a recognized disaster relief organization is the most effective donation to make. When the public supports these voluntary organizations with financial contributions, it helps ensure a steady flow of important services to the people in need after a disaster.
- Volunteering – Volunteer with a recognized organization involved in disaster response and recovery. While newly recruited volunteers may not complete training in time to assist with the Isaac response, they will be prepared to help with the next disaster event.
- Donation of Goods – Before taking action, confirm what is needed and donate in-kind goods that are specifically requested or needed by recognized organizations. Receiving and managing unsolicited donated goods often redirects voluntary agencies’ valuable resources away from the services required to meet the needs of disaster survivors.
In addition, the Louisiana Service Commission has established a web portal at www.volunteerlouisiana.gov to help with coordinating donations and volunteers. The Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service has established a web portal at www.mcvs.org for volunteer opportunities and donation information. Cash is the preferred method of donation in order to ensure that disaster survivors get the services and supplies they need quickly.
Just as the federal government works closely with 50 plus National VOAD members, as well as many other voluntary, community, and faith-based organizations, each state also has its own organizes State Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. For information on VOADs in affected states, please visit the following: Alabama; Florida; Mississippi; Louisiana.