Posted By: Rich Serino, Deputy Administrator
This week, people across the country are celebrating National Volunteer Week, and at FEMA, we’re happy to join in that celebration. To all the volunteers: thank you. Thank you for volunteering and playing a vital role in strengthening your communities.
Yesterday I spoke to volunteer organizations about how FEMA values and works with the volunteers that step up during and after disasters to help get communities back on their feet. In fact, we can’t talk about community resiliency without mentioning volunteers. They play a key role during disaster response and recovery, and volunteers are important members of the emergency management team.
Last May, a deadly tornado came through Joplin, Missouri and destroyed a high school. The City of Joplin was committed to opening school on time in September – and they did it. They set up in a shopping mall, but it was a fully functioning school and was actually one of the most high-tech schools I had ever seen. All of that was accomplished by a community and its volunteers – including the very people who had survived the tornado.
Simply put, we couldn’t do it without the whole community – including state and local governments, private businesses, and volunteer organizations. When it comes to emergency response, we need to harness all of these groups because they can do the things we can’t. For example, in many instances, a faith-based organization can serve meals to survivors more quickly and efficiently than the government because they know and understand their community, and they have the experience of serving that community long before it was affected by a disaster.
At FEMA, we have taken great strides to work closely with our nation’s volunteer organizations. During disasters, we have volunteer liaisons in our National Response Coordination Center and field offices to ensure we are leveraging the resources of organizations such as the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. And in March, we announced the creation of FEMA Corps, which established a new unit of AmeriCorps volunteers who are solely devoted to FEMA disaster response and recovery activities.
Even though National Volunteer Week is wrapping up, the value you provide to your community is everlasting. If you are involved in a voluntary organization and are seeking ways to get involved, we encourage you to connect with your local government and build those connections before a disaster strikes. You should also seek ways to participate in local exercises.
So to all the volunteers out there: thank you again. We couldn’t do it without you.