Preparedness & Recovery

Opportunity Knocking: Coordinate with Nontraditional Response Organizations

Organizations that service a particular constituent can be an invaluable asset following a disaster.

by Corey Eide / October 17, 2011
Bob Carey/American Red Cross Bob Carey/American Red Cross

Prior to the American Red Cross/U.S. Geological Survey trip in July 2010, an earlier opportunity arose to travel to Chile as a representative of the American Red Cross with a different multi-disciplinary team, which was created through the Los Angeles Operational Area’s Critical Incident Planning and Training Alliance. The purpose of this trip was to gather and analyze information on the planning, response and recovery efforts in place before and after the Feb. 27, 2010, earthquake.

One of the unique elements of the response to this earthquake was the ushering in of a new government as the presidency was transitioning. The federal government was in a significant transition and as a result, the Chilean Red Cross officials found themselves educating a new government on their role and responsibility at a national and local level at the absolute worst time.

There has been significant progress over the last few decades with the creation of Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster and the integration of national nongovernmental organizations in state and national response planning. Through these efforts, identification of additional resources (both human and physical) added to the disaster planning landscape and ensured greater coordination during response.

Despite this progress, a large opportunity remains in the coordination of the nontraditional disaster response organizations. These are the organizations whose mission statements don’t reference planning and response to disasters, but do include providing service to a particular constituent. If your community was one of those affected by the numerous disasters that struck across the country this spring, you may have seen these organizations provide incredible services. Regardless of how robust the efforts may be in your local community, there is significant room for improvement across the nation.

In Los Angeles, there’s continual preparation for a catastrophic earthquake. The immediate response to such a scenario will overwhelm all traditional response organizations and, history tells us, there is a high probability that the nontraditional disaster response organizations will begin to provide services outside of their day-to-day mission.

The opportunity to convene has never been greater. The responsibility lies within each of our organizations to understand our roles and responsibilities, invest the resources to reach and help non¬traditional disaster response organizations to understand the roles and responsibilities available to them. Planning and collaboration in this manner will serve as the framework for connecting with all of the entities that will need to be engaged in order to support FEMA’s Whole of Community strategy.

Corey Eide is the assistant director of emergency and disaster response for the American Red Cross, Los Angeles Region.