Disaster exercise set for Friday, April 11

April 04, 2012
Santa Paula News


“When disaster strikes, they will come” is a well-known statement for those who have worked in the trenches when a major disaster strikes. Individuals and families who want to help during and immediately following a disaster will show up at several locations to offer assistance, but the question is: “What do you do with those untrained volunteers?”

 This will be the focus of an emergency disaster exercise to take place on Friday, April 13 from 8 a.m. - noon at the United Way of Ventura County, 1317 Del Norte Road, Suite 100 in Camarillo.  United Way’s Volunteer Ventura County will set up an Emergency Volunteer Center established to serve, rally and refer “spontaneous” volunteers to service agencies throughout Ventura County. 

 “We are very excited about working on this new program here in Ventura County and to work alongside the County of Ventura Office of Emergency Services and California Volunteers to develop and implement this much needed Emergency Volunteer Center,” said Maggie Tougas, Disaster Services Coordinator for United Way of Ventura County. “We are very fortunate to have our cadre of trained disaster volunteers to help coordinate an influx of volunteers who respond to a disaster.”

 During the April 13th disaster exercise, trained volunteers (known as disaster cadre members) will stand up the Emergency Volunteer Center using the traditional walk-in volunteer center model, a volunteer phone bank, and Volunteer Ventura County.org’s online disaster matching tool. The disaster cadre members have gone through two months of Emergency Volunteer Center training in preparation for the exercise.

 Marisa Lopez, Director of United Way’s Volunteer Ventura County has witnessed first-hand what can happen when untrained volunteers show up during times of disasters. “I have seen this in action while providing support to Volunteer San Diego during the 2007 wildfires,” she said. “In the first month of Emergency Volunteer Center operations, 7,850 people registered on their website, 1,600 registrations were taken over the phone, and more than 100 projects were filled with volunteers.”

 The establishment of a first-of-its-kind Ventura County Emergency Volunteer Center developed as a result of a $30,000 grant received by United Way of Ventura County last September from California Volunteers to implement a disaster volunteer program locally. This resulted in a partnership with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services.

 “Our work with the United Way is a significant step toward mitigating the chaos that can occur when there is no plan for managing volunteers and donations following a major disaster,” said Laura Hernandez from the Office of Emergency Services. “We are thrilled that the United Way has agreed to serve as the lead agency and help the county implement this very important plan.”

 For more information, please contact Marisa Lopez, Director of Volunteer Ventura County at (805) 485-6288, ext. 276 or email mlopez@vcunitedway.org.

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