Disaster Volunteers Arrive Early and Stay Late in Recovery

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Release date: 
May 21, 2007
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PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - When the news of flooding from the April nor'easter spread through the volunteer network, the New Hampshire Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NH VOAD) and Operation Disaster Recovery began mobilizing members. They had been through the drill before in the aftermath of the 2006 Mother's Day flooding. They hit the ground running. Meals were served, flooded houses cleaned and, looking ahead, services were being coordinated to support flood victims in the long term.

"We were working with a few people who had houses totally destroyed by last year?s floods and had housing plans finally set in place, then another flood hit," said Arlene Magoon, state and long-term recovery volunteer coordinator, New Hampshire Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM). "But because of the previous flooding disasters, our volunteer network had learned the procedures and how to deal with funding, and case managers were on board, ready to do intake."

Voluntary organizations are essential partners with state and federal emergency management agencies in disaster response and long-term recovery. Immediately after an event like a flood occurs, volunteers from such organizations as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army embraced the disaster area to house and feed victims and emergency responders.

Faith-based groups and volunteers from within the community and across the country help in cleaning flooded homes, removing storm debris and repairing homes, as assistance programs coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state emergency management provide financial resources to victims. Then, after federal and state emergency agencies have exhausted the resources allowable under the law for disaster assistance, Long Term Recovery Committees composed of local community, faith-based and voluntary agencies step in to help those who still may have needs.

Acting as a Long Term Recovery Committee in New Hampshire, Operation Disaster Recovery is an association of state and community agencies that work together after disasters on the long-term recovery needs of victims. Operation Disaster Recovery's steering committee defines the projects and allocates the resources. Magoon is the HSEM point person in working with the steering committee to identify what the needs are. She explained that when needs are identified, the agencies that make up NH VOAD bring to the table what resources they have, such as people to volunteer their time and funds for building materials and repairs.

"One of the projects we're working on now is an entire street on which homes were flooded," said Magoon. "We are working with volunteers with carpentry skills to help rebuild the houses on that street, and another group will house the volunteers and provide them meals. We may have five different organizations working together to meet the needs of one family."

Cathy Hoyt, disaster volunteer resource coordinator, explained that the NH VOAD network helps during all phases of a disaster recovery to fulfill needs. "The people in New Hampshire have shared a tremendous amount of their time in helping their neighbors. Volunteers from here and around the country have mudded out and molded out about 70 homes so far," said Hoyt, referring to the help given to clean flooded homes and prevent mold growth.

An organization under the national VOAD umbrella that has been active in the flood disasters is the National Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Tom Tsepas, New Hampshire coordinator for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, said the Southern Baptists responded in the immediate aftermath of the nor'easter, "Teams helped assess damage, clean flooded homes and get rid of mold. We had volunteer teams come from within New Hampshire and from around the country -- Vermont, Maine, Tennessee, Illinois, Ohio, Louisiana and Wisconsin."

Hoyt related that the Southern Baptist volunt...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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