OLYMPIA, Wash. -- As Washington residents have demonstrated throughout the storms and flooding of the past few years, they care not only for themselves, but for their neighbors, too. Now, concern for the welfare of their communities is leading individuals and faith-based and voluntary groups to work together in local Long-Term Disaster Recovery Organizations (LTROs).
The mission of an LTRO is to help those neighbors for whom federal and state disaster assistance will not be enough. An LTRO may serve as a clearinghouse and point of contact for volunteer efforts to repair damaged housing, mediating between homeowners in need and volunteer groups that come to do the repair work.
For example, in one county, an elderly, disabled man had extensive damage to his roof after the storms in January. He was able to receive help from FEMA for temporary housing, and he did have insurance to cover his expenses. But he needed help bringing it all together. While some volunteers from an LTRO agency helped the man complete his insurance claim forms and deal with the insurance company, other volunteers installed a tarp until a new roof could be built.
When applicants with disaster damage have exhausted all available FEMA/state assistance and still have serious unmet needs, they are referred by the state to an LTRO. The state will identify the agency with the appropriate resources to help, then will provide the applicant with the phone number of the county LTRO. The applicant then calls the LTRO.
"Recovering from natural disasters is the work of many hands, many agencies - government and private - and many dedicated individuals," said Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn. "FEMA programs are part of the recovery process, but people still have long-term needs that go beyond the scope of government assistance. Fortunately, Washington?s Long-Term Recovery Organizations are working now to provide that help."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) brings to every major disaster a team of people who specialize in helping form LTROs. In Washington, FEMA's Voluntary Agency Liaison group is working with Washington Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (WA-VOAD) to assess needs, forge connections with outside agencies, meet with many local groups and organizations, and provide guidance as needed.
LTROs combine the resources of voluntary groups in the county. Typically, they are comprised of social voluntary and faith-based organizations. The organizations that participate in an LTRO expand their opportunities to assist residents affected by the disaster. By coordinating their efforts, they make the best use of each member?s services and resources, while allowing them to share information and thus avoid duplication of benefits.
"These committees facilitate a simultaneous access to agencies? information, creating a joint forum to share viable solutions to issues and problems, including unmet needs cases in their community," said State Coordinating Officer Kurt Hardin.
FEMA leads and supports the nation in a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.