In response to the severe storms and widespread flooding in Iowa that began March 13, the president approved a Major Disaster Declaration March 23 for five counties along the Missouri River for Individual Assistance and 56 counties throughout the state for Public Assistance.
- Volunteer Iowa was dispatched to hardest-hit areas in the southwest part of the state, and that group, along with Conservation Corps of Minnesota & Iowa, stood up a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) in Hamburg (Fremont County) to handle the influx of people coming to the aid of flood survivors. A second VRC opened later in Mills County.
- At the request of the state for Direct Federal Assistance, FEMA issued a Mission Assignment to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to support ESF 6 (Mass Care) for the disaster. CNCS, established in 1993 by President Clinton, engages millions of volunteers through its varied programs, including AmeriCorps.
- CNCS brought Volunteer Iowa and the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa under the umbrella of the Mission Assignment, which identified operations of the AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team and the CNCS Disaster Cadre.
- The initial Direct Federal Assistance for the mission was $610,000 along with $15,000 in Federal Operational Support for the CNCS Disaster Cadre mission. After several extensions, the total funding reached $919,600.
- Eight AmeriCorps-Disaster Response Teams were deployed for various stints. The teams carried out volunteer management, donation management and support, muck-and-gut work, debris removal and mold suppression. They were:
o Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa
o Volunteer Iowa (with Habitat for Humanity)
o Washington Conservation Corps
o National Civilian Community Corps
o California Conservation Corps
o Texas Conservation Corps
o Utah Conversation Corps
o Southwest Conservation Corps
By the Numbers
During the four months of deployment, the teams accomplished a far-ranging body of work, including:
- 91 homes mucked out and gutted.
- 129 damage assessments completed.
- 33 homes provided with mold suppression.
- 2,988 cubic yards of debris cleared.
- 874,061 pounds of donations collected.
- 420,332 pounds of donations sorted.
- 2 VCRs supported.
- 542 volunteers registered and supervised.
- 680 survivors assisted.
Challenges and Obstacles
- The slow recession of floodwaters prevented teams from accessing many houses, and high water continued to cause more and more damage for weeks.
- Extremely high heat and humidity posed physical strain to those working outside.
- Some roads remain closed, limiting ability to reach damaged structures.
- Emotional stress was often pronounced from dealing with survivors who had lost almost everything.
- Local governments had doubts about teams’ capabilities, resulting in resistance to accepting help.
o Each of these challenges were dealt with and mitigated to continue operations efficiently.
During the efforts, AmeriCorps built connections with the state’s Voluntary Organizations Active in a Disaster and local Long-Term Recovery Groups, so when the Mission Assignment expired those groups could assume responsibility for any open work orders and enduring cases.