WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — During major disaster declarations, Georgia’s Voluntary Disaster Recovery Committees assist their local emergency management agencies and surrounding communities by coordinating emergency assistance with shelter, food and other necessities. The many storms which traveled through Georgia within the last two years have left counties like Chatham, Camden, Coffee, Bulloch, and several others, initiating and managing long-term community recovery plans through coalition endeavors. Hurricane Irma left many of the 159 Georgia counties in need of long-term recovery.
The assistance of voluntary agency liaisons from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, along with numerous local and national voluntary organizations, have assisted 10 to 12 Georgia counties with the development of bylaws, identification of fiscal agents, and creation of case management plans.
Preparing and planning helps build and organize recovery readiness for future disasters or smaller impacts from unexpected events. Disasters rarely provide a warning, so it is up to local communities to take the time to plan, prepare, and stay informed.
Voluntary Disaster Recovery Committees throughout the state are made up of local and state agencies, places of worship, and non-profit agencies. They work with survivors on solving problems that range from financial assistance, debris clean-up, and minor and major home repairs, and can also include crisis and spiritual counseling.
“The Voluntary Disaster Recovery Committees within Georgia are created to find the people who may otherwise fall through the cracks of disaster assistance or have become lost among the overlapping systems delivering assistance to survivors.” said Eric Nankervis, FEMA’s voluntary agency liaison for the state of Georgia.
Each disaster recovery committee:
- has a mission to strengthen area-wide disaster coordination by sharing information, simplifying client access and jointly resolving cases with unmet needs;
- helps affected families develop a plan and receive adequate assistance for recovery;
- comprises representatives from the immediate community; and
- exists with all participating organizations as equal partners.
One example of the great work brought about through voluntary committees is shown through the achievements of Bulloch County’s Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster, which initiated their initial efforts after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. When Irma hit the Georgia coast, Bulloch was ready for immediate action. Even though they received relatively little damage, it did not stop them from helping their neighboring counties. They took their food supply and cooking trailer to Glynn and Camden counties and distributed water and hot meals to disaster survivors.
“Disasters start locally and end locally,” said Nankervis. “If the disaster is a large enough event, as was the case with hurricanes Matthew and Irma, there may be assistance from the state and FEMA to support recovery efforts. At the end of the day, these agencies need to finish their missions and move on to the next event. What we are trying to do with these disaster recovery groups is to build capacity of the local community to be able to continue to support those impacted by disasters, and help prepare the community for the next event.”
To learn more about voluntary agencies active in disaster, visit www.ready.gov/voluntary-organizations-active-disaster. For further information on Georgia Voluntary Agencies Active in Disaster, visit www.ready.gov/voluntary-organizations-active-disaster.
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. Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/femaregion4 and the FEMA Blog at http://blog.fema.gov.