Friday, September 02, 2005

National Service Programs Respond to Hurricane Katrina

[AmeriCorps press release. Note that this response has taken place just in the first four days of this disaster. I served on disaster relief in the Biloxi region in 2002 after Isadore, doing service center and damage assessment work. I doubt any damage assessment can be done yet; they'll probably dispatch more AmeriCorps members later to help with that.]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, August 31, 2005

(Washington D.C.) -- In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, national service programs are joining with local, state, and national relief and recovery efforts to provide emergency assistance and long-term relief to those in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and other areas whose lives were affected by the storm.

"In times of crisis, citizens and volunteers make up the backbone of support for people and communities in need," said David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers the AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America programs. "We have dispatched rapid response crews and are working with local, state, and federal officials to help coordinate citizen service and philanthropic activity over the long term. It will take many months to recover from such a devastating disaster, and we will ensure that service and volunteering goes where it's needed, both now and in the future."

The Corporation and its network of state commissions and grantees have a long history of involvement public safety, public health, and emergency preparedness and response, including longstanding partnerships with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, and other agencies. The Corporation became a signatory to the National Response Plan in 2005, making it part of the official Federal plan to protect our nation from natural and manmade hazards and attacks with specific responsibilities in two sections of the plan: Mass Care and Housing, and in the Donations and Volunteer Management.

In addition, the fifty-three governor-appointed state service commissions funded by the Corporation have a key role in managing donations and volunteers in disaster situations. Last year, Volunteer Florida helped coordinate all volunteers and donations for the hurricane – more than 140,000 volunteers who contributed a total of 6 million hours of service.

National service volunteers dispatched to the Gulf Coast region, or otherwise assisting with the relief and recovery effort, include, in part:

§ The first 50 members of the AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) from the Northeast campus in Perry Point, Md., flew into Montgomery, Ala., on Monday. Four members are in Montgomery to support a response technology center; 19 members are supporting shelters in Biloxi, Miss.; 15 members are supporting shelters in Pascagoula, Miss.; and 12 members are supporting shelters in Mobile, Ala. An additional 23 members are being deployed today to the stricken region today, and 24 will fly out on Thursday, bringing the total to 96 NCCC members from the Northeast region.

§ 22 AmeriCorps*NCCC members from the Central Region campus in Denver, Colo., are currently assisting the American Red Cross at their call centers in Denver.

§ At least 39 AmeriCorps members from the National Preparedness and Response Corps, a program of the American Red Cross, are supporting efforts either on-site in Mass Care activitiesor at their "host" chapters, where they are manning call centers.

§ AmeriCorps*VISTA Leaders from Red Cross projects in Iowa, Ohio, and elsewhere have been deployed to the affected region by the American Red Cross.

§ A number of AmeriCorps*VISTA members are assisting relief efforts in Alabama and Louisiana.

§ Members of an RSVP Homeland Security project in northern Alabama who have CERT training have been deployed to hard-hit areas of the state.

The Corporation and its programs gained valuable experience in dealing with issues arising from hurricane response and relief during the series of hurricanes that ravaged Florida last year. At the time, several thousand participants with the Corporation's AmeriCorps, NCCC, VISTA, and Senior Corps programs, as well as student volunteers connected with Learn and Serve America, distributed food, set up shelters, put tarps on buildings and supplied the infrastructure and expertise needed to manage the historic number of volunteers that they had in the state.

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