Volunteers Play Key Role In Hoosier Disaster Recovery

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Release date: 
November 12, 2008
Release Number: 
1795-041

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- It takes many organizations working together after a disaster to help a community recover. As leaders in their Indiana voluntary agencies, it?s something Kevin Cox and Lucinda Nord know a lot about.

Cox is founder and chief executive officer of the Hope Crisis Response Network (HCRN) as well as chair of the Indiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (INVOAD). Lucinda Nord is secretary of INVOAD and vice president of policy for the Indiana Association of United Ways. Both helped coordinate disaster response efforts and rally volunteers and voluntary agencies to assist those affected by Hurricane Ike after it trekked north from the Gulf coast Sept. 12.

An immediate need of those displaced by the severe weather event was housing. More than 260 families from Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties were lodged at area hotels through a state-run, federally-assisted disaster recovery program. The program ran for one month until families could be relocated in longer term housing. At the end of the month, these families moved into more permanent quarters in less than a week ? thanks to a coordinated effort among state and federal entities and voluntary organizations.?

Cox and Nord worked hand-in-hand with the state, with township trustees and with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make calls to find available housing, to assist some families with transportation, or to provide counseling, food and critical supplies.?

"It takes many organizations working together to help make a community whole," said Cox, acknowledging the successful mission. "Our partnership with FEMA is priceless." FEMA has always collaborated with voluntary organizations.

Many voluntary agencies work together in their preparedness efforts through the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) formed after the devastating Hurricane Camille in 1969. NVOAD was established because disaster response and relief organizations were concerned about the frequent duplication of services. These organizations have met together annually since 1971 to increase cooperation, coordination, communication, and education.

Today, NVOAD is comprised of 49 national member organizations, and 55 state and territorial associations, including INVOAD, and participates in the National Response Plan. The plan forms the basis of how the federal government coordinates with the state, local and tribal governments and the private sector during domestic natural or man-made disasters. It incorporates homeland security, emergency management, law enforcement, fire fighting, emergency medical services, the private sector and other areas, integrating them so that they work together.

Once a disaster has been declared by the president, the FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison (VAL) located at a disaster site contacts voluntary agencies to update them with situation information and to determine what activities they have already undertaken. The FEMA voluntary agency liaison then schedules and conducts a coordinating meeting with the primary responding voluntary agency to discuss needs not met with government assistance.

"We receive a lot of referrals from FEMA and then match that request to a voluntary agency depending on the need," said Cox.

Many communities affected by Ike still face critical recovery issues.

"In northwest Indiana there is still water in the basements of about 100 homes that are without heat," said Lucinda Nord.? "Clearing up this problem is our first priority. Then we?ll address house gutting and mold remediation. As people get their disaster assistance checks, we?ll help to rebuild."

They?ll need voluntary agencies and volunteers to pitch in to complete the mission. Winter and spring flooding and tornadoes have placed a strain on available volunteer resources from other states. "Many of th...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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