New Castle, DE -- It is often true that a disaster brings out the best in people. It is definitely true in Delaware. Volunteers, churches, community organizations, county services and local businesses stepped up to the plate immediately to help those affected by Tropical Storm Henri and Hurricane Isabel.
Voluntary agencies, churches, state organizations, community services - more than twenty in all - met and have established a long-term recovery committee whose mission is to find resources for disaster recovery needs not met through existing sources. This committee, DELHI (Delaware Henri & Isabel), decided a primary long-term priority would be finding a permanent housing solution for every displaced homeowner who had a permanent home lost during Henri or Isabel. DELHI is overseeing efforts to orchestrate Mennonite work forces, acquire building supplies through discount lumberyards, establish room and board for volunteers through churches, and more.
"There is always a turning point in disaster recovery when the counties involved take charge of their own community's recovery," said Glenn Gillespie, State Coordinating Officer for the disaster. "The people, the agencies, and the communities of Delaware stepped forward to help from the onset of the flooding, and the momentum continues to build."
From the beginning, the affected communities did not stand idly by as the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) partnered in response to the presidential disaster declaration to initiate state and federal recovery programs and awards.
New Castle County, through Housing and Urban Development (HUD), assisted with immediate housing needs by offering displaced residents motel accommodations until they were able to establish eligibility for FEMA's housing program.
The county identified the need for, and provided, temporary moving and storage assistance to help displaced families protect their personal property until other assistance sources could be tapped.
A mobile command post was established - offering those in affected communities a site to visit for local recovery information. A rotation of lawyers helped staff the mobile site to answer questions related to what could be legal issues associated with damage during the flood.
As cleanup began, and residents salvaged what they could and mounds of muddy debris lined the streets. The county responded, and on two occasions construction support teams have removed and transported ruined appliances, carpets, drywall, etc., to the landfill - more than 300 tons to date.
Over 200 volunteers including community churches, local businesses and individuals donated time, food and money to provide hot meals for individuals and families who spend their days cleaning their flood-ravaged property, including those living in motels.
The state initiated the Disaster Outreach Project, a door-to-door crisis counseling service that puts counselors on the streets of the affected communities to offer an avenue for emotional support to stressed families. In addition, volunteers gathered to sort and manage donations, such as cleaning supplies and used clothing. It is obvious that the best in Delawareans shines forth during this difficult time.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.