By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer
Cooke County —
A local emergency management group is currently widening awareness of its cause to help minimize calamity.
The Cooke County arm of the national Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) organization formed in April 2011, and members meet every other month to establish the resources available in case nature or manmade terror strike.
Voting membership includes 15 people, many of them also agents of local nonprofit, civic, medical and ministerial groups.
“Our goal during non-disaster times is preparedness and training, and, during a disaster, to respond and coordinate efforts,” chairman Robert Kelley said during Thursday’s regular meeting.
Member Judy Schiffer said Cooke County’s VOAD group is best seen as a “third or fourth-tier response unit,” organized to help primary and secondary management crews such as teams from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The help may be a case of assistance on a purely local level — or local rural effort organized in response to a state or national catastrophe. Recent examples of state VOAD involvement include not only aid during the Gainesville flood of 2007, but the use of Gainesville resources to help displaced Hurricane Katrina victims during 2005.
Among other efforts, VOAD members coordinate volunteers to clean debris, send food or assist with longer-term issues such as housing for elderly and disabled disaster victims.
“We come in after all the responders have helped at the initial crisis and then we see where we can help out in a monetary and distribution area,” Schiffer said Thursday. “We try to get coordinated with all the agencies in the county to distribute things so that we can meet their needs as much as possible.”
Thursday’s meeting also included input from visiting Texas VOAD President Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, who credited the county branch and said it’s now one of only 11 statewide.
In the case of a major hurricane whirling through Texas, she said, that number likely won’t be enough.
“We have to look at where we have assets and resources because we can’t tax every single community,” Shearer said. “We can’t just depend on Dallas. We try to plan for the unknown, just like you all are here, and there are going to be some variables you don’t know. We may have to come up here and this may be our outpost. So you never know what’s going to happen, and I’m so grateful that you’re doing this.”
And Shearer added that though floods and hurricanes are the organization’s typical considerations, terrorism and chemical spills have joined the factor list during the past decade in a major way.
“We’re in these turbulent times,” she said. “And we’re as likely to get a terrorist situation, unfortunately, as we are to get a natural disaster. But if something happened, then we would need to know, in our other outlying communities, that there’s resources and that we have an infrastructure.”
For more information about VOAD, visit www.NVOAD.org or www.TexasVOAD.org.