County Looking to Expand Volunteer Emergency Response Team

'When you have a FEMA disaster, some people have insurance. Some people are helped by FEMA. There’s a small group of people that fall into the cracks that no one is there to help.'

by Jena Sauber, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo. / February 13, 2017

(TNS) - Although they hope they will never be needed, a Buchanan County nonprofit group is looking to build emergency response services from civic organizations and area churches.

“Hopefully we’ll never need it,” said Bill Brinton, director of the Buchanan County Emergency Management Agency, “but we need to have people that can help us if we do.”

The Buchanan County Community Organizations Active in Disasters nonprofit group is looking to add churches and civic organizations to its group to help respond to a disaster. Other county COAD groups respond to disaster relief needs across the country.

In Buchanan County, the COAD grew out of a Long Term Recovery Committee established in 2011 to respond to area flooding. The LTRC helps people effected by a catastrophic event who don’t have private insurance and can’t be assisted by FEMA and still can be mobilized through COAD as needed.

“When you have a FEMA disaster, some people have insurance. Some people are helped by FEMA,” Brinton said. “There’s a small group of people that fall into the cracks that no one is there to help.”

The COAD group is led by Beverley Maltsberger, community development specialist for the Buchanan County Extension Center, and Dr. Darrell Jones, pastor of Grace Evangelical Church. The group currently includes 12 churches and other organizations, including the American Red Cross.

“There’s a saying that exchanging business cards at a disaster is not the time to do it. Everybody is busy,” Maltsberger said. “If you can do some planning ahead of time, we can learn what everyone can do. Then you are asking the right people for the right thing and you aren’t running around trying to find someone.”

The group meets monthly and holds quarterly meetings to educate pastors and other leaders on disaster response and assistance. Although the COAD group has been active for about two years, it has not had to respond to any disasters in that time.

The goal is to increase the number of churches and civic groups involved in COAD, Brinton said. In 2011, volunteers helped prepare sandbags, remove debris and other clean up efforts.

“We may have a faith-based group that may have a very large facility that could be used for a shelter. You may have one that has a commercial kitchen so they may be able to do some meal preparation and serve volunteers who are working,” Maltsberger said. “Everyone has different abilities and by working together as a COAD, you ask the right people for the things that they can do.”

All interested churches and civic organizations are invited to a public Buchanan County COAD meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, in rooms 222 and 223 of the Blum Student Center at Missouri Western State University. More information is available by calling Brinton at 816-271-1574.

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