COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When disasters strike, voluntary agencies often are among the first to arrive on the scene and among the last to leave. After widespread flooding struck Ohio this spring, the contribution of volunteer agencies to the recovery was immeasurable, state and federal disaster officials said today.
“Too often the good work of these organizations goes unrecorded, but we want to recognize their joining with us to deal with unmet needs of Ohioans affected by the flooding of May and June,” said Lee Champagne, Federal Coordinating Officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Since the flooding, voluntary agencies have done a tremendous job responding to the needs of scores of families, many of whom required emergency help and who also will require long-term assistance,” said Dale W. Shipley, State Coordinating Officer and Executive Director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA).
Once they have registered with FEMA and the state for disaster assistance, Ohio residents who suffered losses in the flooding of May 18 to June 21 and who still have serious unmet needs may find help through a wide range of voluntary groups, coordinated by a long-term recovery committee, that will continue working after the governmental disaster response has ended.
The recovery committee is composed of representatives, local when possible, from a wide range of volunteer disaster response agencies. The groups meet to help families develop plans and access the resources needed for their recovery, said Oscar Joseph, voluntary agency liaison with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The roots of the recovery committee reach three decades into the past. After the devastation of Hurricane Camille 33 years ago, voluntary organizations that provide resources and services to disaster-stricken communities shared a mutual concern over duplication of services. They combined to form the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), which has met each year since 1971.
“While the public is aware of the vital role the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and other agencies play in providing emergency assistance during a disaster, people may not realize that these organizations continue to provide help long after the emergency phase has passed under the VOAD umbrella,” Joseph said.
Joseph said that the Ohio Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster has been working since the early days of the flooding. Volunteer crews helped with cleanup, warehousing and distributing clothing, food and water. Among the volunteer agencies involved in the recovery effort are the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Lutheran Social Services, United Church of Christ, and Seventh Day Adventist Church.
Lutheran Social Services is doing casework in the southeastern counties, and the Seventh Day Adventist Church is working with local government in Columbiana County on a community-based recovery effort.
Recovery planning is well under way through the Southeast Ohio Disaster Recovery Network, emerging local efforts in Columbiana County, and work in the northern counties by the United Church of Christ and American Red Cross.
The Ohio EMA coordinates State assistance and resources during an emergency and prepares the state for all hazards through planning, training, exercises and funding activities at the state and local level. This includes providing assistance to individuals and administering state and federal assistance to individuals and governmental entities recovering from disaster-related damage and costs. Ohio EMA coordinates homeland security funding, weapons of mass destruction training, anti-terrorism planning and training, and assists local and state agencies determine homeland strategies and priorities.