Washington, DC -- District residents who suffered losses as a result of the recent flooding but still have serious unmet needs may find help through a host of voluntary groups coordinated by a Long-Term Recovery Committee that will be working long after the disaster response has ended.
The committee is composed of representatives - local when possible - from a myriad of volunteer disaster response agencies. The groups get together through the committee to help affected families develop a plan and access the resources needed for their recovery, said Jennifer Yunker, voluntary agencies liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Yunker defined "long term" by explaining that voluntary agency help is still being provided for some individuals surviving Hurricane Andrew, which slammed into Miami in August 1992. The committee structure makes it possible to access agencies simultaneously and to receive the benefit of a wide array of solutions to problems. How did it all start?
After the devastating Hurricane Camille 32 years ago, organizations involved in providing resources and services to communities affected by disasters shared their mutual concern over the frequent duplication of services. These organizations, which today make up what is called National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD), have met together annually since 1971. The District of Columbia is an active member of this group. Their main goal, which is also the keystone of a long-term recovery effort, is to increase cooperation, coordination, communication, and education.
"While the public is aware of the vital role the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other agencies play in providing emergency assistance during a disaster, people often don't realize that these organizations continue to provide help long after the emergency phase has passed," FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Tom Davies said.
Yunker said that among volunteer agencies responding to the District flood recovery effort are:
The American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Mennonite Disaster Service, Church of the Brethren, Southern Baptist Convention, Catholic Charities, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, and DC Cares. Also responding were the Mayor's Office on Volunteerism and the Agency Neighborhood Commissioners.
District Coordinating Officer Peter LaPorte said, "In the two weeks since the flooding happened, the voluntary agencies have done a tremendous job in responding to the needs of scores of families, many of whom required not just emergency help but long-term recovery assistance."