Hurricane season is officially here. The first tropical depression formed last Thursday and has since dissipated. Even though Indiana isn't directly affected by hurricanes, the state certainly sees the after effects in the form of rain, tornadoes and flooding.
But hurricanes are only one type of disaster that can hit a community. Tornados, thunderstorms, dam failures, earthquakes, fires or wildfires, floods, hazardous material spills, heat, landslides and winter storms can also create havoc.
Tuesday night, golf ball and baseball size hail broke windshields and windows in nearby Fishers.
When a disaster hits the community, local citizens are often in the best position to provide immediate relief and support. With this in mind, several individuals and groups have joined together to create a Community Organizations Active in a Disaster (COAD).
"The importance of developing a COAD is to organize and deploy community resources in an effective and timely manner, in response to the needs of community disaster survivors," said Doug Cox, DePauw University's Emergency Management Director at the initial COAD meeting.
Before a disaster strikes, the COAD focuses on emergency preparedness education along with developing a database of local resources that can be called upon in response to a disaster.
During the disaster, the COAD is tasked with staffing an information center for residents, maintaining effective communications using telephones and various bulletin boards, and distributing food, water and other resources.
After a disaster, the COAD can assist with clean up and provide information about what disaster assistance is available.
And in the process of recovery, the COAD will be around long after other outside agencies have left the area.
"Volunteers are absolutely essential in this process," noted Dick Andis.
It is very difficult to put a dollar value on volunteer time. Volunteers provide many intangibles that cannot be easily quantified. For example, they demonstrate the amount of support an organization has within a community, provide work for short periods of time, and provide support on a wide range of projects.
Charitable organizations most frequently use the value of volunteer time for recognition events or communications to show the amount of community support an organization receives from its volunteers.
In 2008, the hourly value of a volunteer was $20.25 per hour. The value of volunteer time is based on the average hourly earnings of all production and non-supervisory workers on private non-farm payrolls (as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
The Independent Sector takes this figure and increases it by 12 percent to estimate for fringe benefits.
It is important to remember that when a doctor, lawyer, craftsman or anyone with a specialized skill volunteers, the value of his or her work is based on his or her volunteer work, not his or her earning power. In other words, volunteers must be performing their special skill as volunteer work.
If a doctor is painting a fence or a lawyer is sorting groceries, he or she is not performing his or her specialized skill for the nonprofit, and their volunteer hour value would not be higher.
With the value of volunteers in mind and what talents those people have, the next step the COAD is taking is to coordinate with the existing agencies that provide emergency and other necessary services in the community as well as develop Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT).
"We need people interested in taking CERT training," explained Cox.
CERT volunteers are trained in disaster preparedness, fire suppression, basic disaster medical services, light search and rescue, team organization, and protection against terrorist threats. They act as an extension of first responder services by offering immediate help to victims until professional services arrive.
"Volunteers are also needed to participate in National Incident Management System (NIMS). This is a three-hour online course geared toward persons involved with emergency planning, response or recovery efforts," said Cox.
These courses benefit any citizen who takes them. Individuals become better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster, are given a better understanding of emergency services capabilities, and of their own responsibility in preparing for a disaster.
The Putnam County COAD needs volunteers of all ages and talents. Anyone interested in learning more about the NIMS and CERT training should contact Cox at 653-5018.
For information about joining the COAD movement in Putnam County, contact Doug Cox at 658-5018. Watch the Banner Graphic for updates on the development of the COAD.