"It Takes the Whole Community:" Sign-Up Now to Volunteer During a Disaster

With severe weather season upon us, disasters can strike anywhere at any time. The devastation currently plaguing Japan reminds us of the importance of being prepared for emergencies. In a disaster, it takes more than just the emergency management team to mitigate the impact; the entire community’s involvement is the key to rebuilding and recovering from a disaster. The entire involvement of the community requires comprehensive planning between community organizations and volunteers. Without advanced planning, volunteers can sometimes become a liability and can create additional chaos during an already stressful time.

In Douglas County, the United Way Roger Hill Volunteer Center is the agency in charge of managing spontaneous volunteers in times of disasters. Community volunteers are needed and are encouraged to participate in future preparedness efforts and help during an emergency or disaster. To sign up and register today as a disaster volunteer, visit http://volunteerdouglascounty.org/. The Volunteer Center’s website includes a registration process for people to sign up in advance as disaster volunteers; opportunities are available for volunteers of all skills levels.

The Volunteer Center has worked to assure that the community is prepared to manage disaster volunteers by conducting a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) exercise in 2009 and hosting a community forum in March as part of Together Prepared. Two years ago, the Volunteer Center worked with Douglas County Emergency Management (DCEM) and the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical (LDCFM) to test our community’s local plan for managing volunteers. The exercise simulated a full-functioning VRC modeled after the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) plan. The participation of community members provided key information about the adequacy of operations and staff training if a VRC was to be activated.

Most recently, the Volunteer Center participated in hosting a community forum on March 29 as part of Together Prepared, a coalition of agencies working to improve disaster planning for vulnerable populations. Jono Anzalone, Regional Voluntary Agency Liaison from FEMA Region VII, presented to an audience of 36 on the topic, highlighting the importance of having a community plan for volunteers in times of disasters.

“Lawrence is taking proactive steps that we know work in making sure assistance to disaster survivors is effective,” Anzalone said.

For more information about the forum and to learn more about disaster preparedness, visit: http://www.6newslawrence.com/news/local/lawrence-prepares-for-disasters/ or http://www.togetherprepared.org/.

Tagged: Together Prepared, Emergency Preparedness, Douglas County Emergency Management, Roger Hill Volunteer Center, disaster volunteers, FEMA

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