By Veronica Hinke
In just a few days after a string of unseasonal tornadoes thrashed southern Indiana, killing 13, the Indiana Department of Homeland and Security began a robust disaster response campaign. The state’s recovery newsletter and traveling center of recovery staff and services were key elements of the operation.
On March 5, the department distributed its first of many recovery newsletters for Indiana residents. The daily publication, titled “Rebuilding: A Guide for Disaster Survivors,” headlined information such as road closures and building permit policies. The newsletter was emailed and faxed to businesses, libraries, faith-based groups and other community organizations in storm-impacted areas. Volunteers distributed the publication to affected residents. Requests for the newsletter poured in, and within a few days the initial distribution of 200 soared to 1,500.
“The newsletter was an idea that became an effective tool,” said Joe Wainscott, IDHS executive director. “It’s an instrument we will use as we continue to seek better and more efficient ways to help disaster survivors.”
The newsletter included a schedule of traveling disaster recovery center stops, an operation the state launched on March 13. At every stop, representatives from the American Red Cross, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Indiana State Department of Health and other agencies that provide essential services met face-to-face with individuals recovering from severe storms that occurred Feb. 29 through March 3.
Through March 21, state representatives worked alongside federal disaster recovery specialists at a shop in Sellersburg. Single day centers, all termed one-stop shops, were also set up. One was established in New Pekin on March 14, and another was organized in Holton on March 24.
The state of Indiana furnished laptop computers at the one-stop shop in Sellersburg. Storm-impacted residents could use the computers to access recovery information and register for FEMA assistance. Sixty percent of DR 4058 IN FEMA registrations have been completed online.
The state of Indiana’s newsletter and mobile recovery operation went a long way in setting storm-impacted communities on the road to recovery.