Fayette County Faith-Based Disaster Network
Executive Summary of Objectives
In 2012 the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency embarked on a new initiative called the Fayette County Faith-Based Disaster Network. The purpose of this initiative is to better coordinate the many individual volunteers and faith-based organizations that are willing to assist emergency management agencies and their community during times of disaster. Prior disaster events have convincingly demonstrated that faith-based volunteers are a valuable resource to help the community recover from a disaster incident in a variety of ways.
Faith-Based Network Objective
The Fayette County Emergency Management Agency conducted a comprehensive study of specific community needs during and after the four presidentially declared disasters that have affected Fayette County over the past 20 years. With input from the faith-based community, it was determined that the following 10 Volunteer Support Functions (VSF) should be established in order to provide coordination and to create an organizational platform for faith-based volunteers and agencies that are willing to assist during disasters.
Establish and train volunteer management personnel to establish volunteer reception centers, track volunteers, and better coordinate faith-based organizations during a disaster response.
Establish and train volunteer debris cleanup teams that will assist homeowners with debris removal from private property. Emergency services personnel are not allowed to perform any debris removal on private property.
Train damage assessment volunteers to assist the county Tax Assessors office in conducting damage assessments in disaster areas. Accurate damage assessments are a key factor in activating state and national resources to aid us during the disaster.
Establish and train volunteers to open and run points of dispensing and distribution centers. These teams will support the distribution of pharmaceuticals by licensed medical professionals, or will distribute commodities such as ice, water, diapers, clothing and food during disasters.
After a disaster, there is a need for consoling and counseling disaster victims. Basic disaster counseling training will teach volunteers the “do’s and don’ts” of dealing with disaster victims emotional needs.
Often there is a need for short-term sheltering of victims after a disaster. Shelter Management teams will be trained to work in pre-established shelters in cooperation with the Red Cross who is the lead agency in sheltering victims of disasters. Faith-based organizations will not be asked to create any shelters at their own facilities.
Communications during and after a disaster is essential to the success of responding and recovering from a disaster. The county has a reliable public-service radio system, however large-scale disasters have the potential to tax the system. Amateur radio operators can supplement our communications ability during these events. Periodic training and certification will be held in an effort to help boost the number of amateur radio operators on this team.
After every disaster, the public donates a variety of goods to victims of disasters. If not properly coordinated, donated goods can become very problematic. This team will be trained to manage and organize donated goods that are given by the citizens of the community.
An often over looked but important aspect of a disaster are the animals that have been affected by a disaster. Red Cross shelter policy does not permit any pets to accompany their families, creating a significant dilemma. This team with deal with the housing, sheltering, and support of animals during times of disaster.
There is a wide variety of citizens in our community with specific disaster related skill sets. This team will be a collection of those volunteers that are willing to volunteer their time and the use of those skills during a disaster.
VSF Team Training
In an effort to teach volunteers the skills and procedures necessary to assist in these VSFs, training for each VSF is held once per month at various churches throughout Fayette County. The training is free of charge and is advertised via email. Volunteer instructions, prerequisites, or special registration requirements are clearly identified in the email. Participants can take as many or as few courses as they wish, in any sequence.
How Do You Get Involved
The Fayette County Emergency Management Agency is the lead agency in coordination of the Faith-Based Disaster Network. To register for emails that advertise the activities, training and activation of the Network, send an email to Division Chief Pete Nelms at firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be added to the email distribution list.
Registration does not obligate any faith-based organization or individual volunteer to participate when the time for activation comes, although the hope is that you will be ready and able to assist your community during times of disaster by supporting the team or teams in which you have trained.
Many faith-based organizations choose to concentrate their efforts in just one or two VSFs that are particularly well suited to their strengths as an organization. The vision and sponsorship within a faith-based organization often comes from an existing group such as an usher team, a men’s or women’s fellowship, or a youth group, relieving the pastoral staff from additional commitments and strengthening fellowship among the group as they train and serve together.
Throughout history, best practice emergency management activities has proven that it is the Faith-Based community that is always willing to assist their community recover from a disaster. The Fayette County Faith-Based Disaster Network is a program by which First Response agencies are partnering with volunteers and various groups prior to a disaster in an effort to better organize and reduce human suffering and speed the recovery process in our community.
Your participation in the program is strictly voluntary and it is our hope that by promoting the Faith-Based Disaster Network program within your church or organization that we can increase the number of trained and ready volunteers for the inevitable disaster that will one-day affect our community. If you would like a representative to come and speak to your church or organization about the Faith-Based Disaster Network or have additional questions, please contact Division Chief Pete Nelms at 770-305-5172.