MARION, Ill. -- Volunteer hours, equipment and materials donated to southern Illinois after the May 8 storm may mean more money in local coffers.
During the May 8 storm, while local and state officials concentrated on emergency protective measures and life safety, they were challenged with the amount of downed trees and other debris blocking roads and their communities' paths to recovery. Power was out and people needed to eat. Hundreds of volunteers from faith-based groups, community organizations and private companies quickly showed up to help.
"Volunteers play a key role in any disaster," said Dolph Diemont, federal coordinating officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Without volunteer labor, equipment or material contributions, many communities would have a much harder time responding and recovering from disasters."
Southern Baptist Disaster Recovery Team volunteers fired up their chainsaws to clear debris from roads, school grounds, parks and other areas. Workers from Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois, the National Presbytery Disaster Assistance Response Team, Danville's First Assembly of God and New Life Christian Center, and members of other churches jumped in to help. The American Red Cross (ARC) turned out with many volunteers from the Little Egypt Network and the Amish worked alongside local college students.
The ARC provided shelters and feeding stations, firefighters cooked meals and the University of Illinois Extension in Murphysboro charged strangers' cell phones and other wireless equipment when power was out. Those who could not provide physical labor gave moral support. Neighbors helped neighbors.
The good news is that some of this volunteer labor and other donated resources may be eligible under FEMA's Public Assistance Program requirements and could help local governments and other agencies keep more money in their budgets to face future emergencies.
"Credit for donated resources is limited to emergency work such as emergency protective measures and debris removal," said Dave Smith, bureau chief for Disaster Assistance and Preparedness for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA), "but this is still good news for many local municipalities and agencies. So many volunteers turned out to help, and the time and other resources they donated will help ease the financial burden on many communities."
Examples of donated resources that may be eligible include volunteer labor for debris removal, sandbagging, or search and rescue operations, as well as donated equipment such as chainsaws, or donated materials such as gloves.
When it comes to donated resources, documentation is key! For volunteer work, local public officials must show hours worked, work site and a description of work for each volunteer. FEMA requires the same data for donated equipment and materials.
How does FEMA determine the value of donated resources?
Volunteer labor is valued at the same rate normally paid for similar work in the area's labor market. Credit may be applied for volunteer labor in any field considered as emergency work, including the work of volunteer equipment operators.
To determine the value of donated equipment, FEMA staff multiplies the number of hours each piece of equipment is used by FEMA's equipment rate. The donations credit is capped at the non-federal share of emergency work and may apply toward certain portions of the community's non-federal share of the recovery costs.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders and 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.