WASHINGTON - In the wake of severe storms and tornadoes in Oklahoma, voluntary agencies continue to be a vital member of the disaster response and recovery team, working alongside state, tribal and local emergency responders to assist in caring for the immediate needs of survivors. The public can play an important role with the emergency management team, volunteering their time, money, and energy to help disaster survivors and their families. There are ways individuals can support the ongoing response and recovery efforts, whether they live in the affected area or across the country.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is advising people who want to help survivors to do so through affiliation with the voluntary organizations that are active in the ongoing disaster operations. More information on volunteering and donations can be found at www.fema.gov/howtohelp.
“Voluntary agencies are playing a critical role in the response and recovery efforts in Oklahoma,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “To best meet the needs of survivors, voluntary agencies need the public’s support.”
National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) serves as the primary point of contact for voluntary organization coordination in FEMA's National Response Coordination Center, supporting Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services needs. National VOAD continues to work with a network of more than 50 national agencies and 55 state and territorial VOADs providing countless volunteers and services to support response and recovery efforts. Financial contributions offer voluntary agencies of your choice the most flexibility in obtaining resources.
“The coordinated support from the American public, Oklahoma survivors, faith-based and community-based relief organizations, the business community and local, state, tribal and federal governments will be necessary to restore the communities in Moore County,” said Daniel Stoecker, Executive Director of National VOAD. “The most effective way to help tornado survivors will be to donate to, or volunteer with, a reputable, recognized organization active in disaster response and recovery activities.”
National VOAD members including voluntary, non-profit and faith-based organizations are working closely with affected states and communities to assist with providing mobile feeding, assist with debris removal and, as needed, to support with temporary home repairs and other needs for disaster survivors.
Examples of ongoing work include:
• Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disastercontinues to work with its membership to coordinate mass feeding teams, debris clean up and volunteer reception centers.
• American Red Cross disaster teams in Oklahoma have five open shelters. Thirty-one emergency response vehicles are on the ground or en route to distribute food and water and five emergency aid stations were open where people can find a safe refuge, food and snacks, emotional support, health care services and information about what other help is available. The Red Cross and FEMA continue to jointly lead the planning and coordination of mass care services, as part of Emergency Support Function 6 (ESF#6), which assists states in their planning and coordinating of mass care services, specifically sheltering, feeding, distribution of emergency supplies, and family reunification services.
• Team Rubicon, working with the American Red Cross, is providing teams of volunteers to assist local authorities with road openings, debris removal, and logistics coordination.
• Salvation Army teams continue to provide food, hydration, and pastoral care to those affected by these tornados. Twelve Mobile Feeding Units (Canteens) have provided more than 4,600 meals to survivors.
• Southern Baptist Convention, working with the American Red Cross, is providing two kitchens to provide meals to disaster survivors. The kitchens are able to make tens of thousands of meals a day if needed.
• Samaritans Purse has mobilized teams with equipment to support debris cleanup, roof tarping, and chainsaw work.
• Mennonite Disaster Service has mobilized Early Response Teams with equipment to support debris clean up and chainsaw work.
• Catholic Charities USA has been working with the local Archdiocese of Oklahoma City to provide support to the diocese efforts. Catholic Charities USA staff aredeployed to support the assessment and determination of the immediate service delivery program.
• Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has a team of National Disaster Response members in Oklahoma City and is providing emotional and spiritual care for survivors and first responders.
• Adventist Community Services (ACS) are collecting, sorting, and distributing supplies under the management of ACS Disaster Response teams.
• ICNA Relief's Disaster Response Services has deployed teams to assist with disaster clean up. Teams include chainsaw crews to assist to remove downed trees from damaged homes, remove damaged household contents and tree debris, and support roof tarping.
• Brethren Disaster Services deployed two of the Critical Response Child Care Teams to provide support to affected families and children. They will be partnering with the American Red Cross to provide trained and certified volunteers to set up child care centers in shelters and disaster assistance centers. The volunteers are specially trained to respond to traumatized children, providing a calm, safe, and reassuring presence.
• United Way in coordination with the state of Oklahoma has established the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund to assist with the long-term medical, emotional and educational needs of survivors. Donations can be made by calling (405) 236-8441 or donating online at www.unitedwayokc.org.
Along with our partners at the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, here are reminders when helping those impacted in Oklahoma:
Cash is the most efficient method of donating– Cash offers voluntary agencies the most flexibility in obtaining the most-needed resources and pumps money into the local economy to help businesses recover. Remember, unsolicited donated goods such as used clothing, miscellaneous household items, and mixed or perishable food require helping agencies to redirect valuable resources away from providing services to sort, package, transport, warehouse, and distribute items that may not meet the needs of disaster survivors.
Donate through a trusted organization – At the national level, many voluntary, faith and community-based organizations are active in disasters, and are trusted ways to donate to disaster survivors. In addition to the national members, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, in coordination with the United Way of Central Oklahoma, established the OK Strong Disaster Relief Fund to assist with the long-term medical, emotional and educational needs of disaster survivors. More information is available at okstrong.ok.gov. For more information on how do volunteer and donate responsibly, www.fema.gov/howtohelp.
Be wary of scams and fraud - Unfortunately, disasters often bring out criminals who prey on the needs of disaster survivors, or the generosity of those looking to help, by offering fraudulent services. If you suspect anyone – an inspector, disaster survivor, or someone posing as one of these – of fraudulent activities, call our toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or your local law enforcement agency.
FEMA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies or services.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.