Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Back up desire to help with useful action

By the Advocate Editorial Board
May 23, 2013 at 12:23 a.m.

Our nation has faced multiple disasters over the past few weeks, from the Boston Marathon bombing to the West fertilizer plant explosion and now the tornado in Moore, Okla.

Every time a disaster arises, we are always amazed by how many people rush in to help. These volunteers, especially in West and Moore, have sifted through the remains of homes, schools, hospitals and more to find survivors, recover bodies and help residents begin rebuilding their lives.

But the hard truth is not everyone can run out and volunteer when disaster strikes. Often, a specific set of skills is needed to meet the needs of the situation. During the recent disasters, Victoria's Emergency Management Coordinator Jeb Lacey noticed a large number of residents who expressed frustration over social media at not being able to help. That overwhelming desire to help in a crisis is good to see, but we also understand the frustration expressed by those who do not know what to do.

The truth is, disaster can strike anywhere. The United States is struck by about 1,200 tornadoes a year, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. Tornadoes can strike anywhere at any time, but they are most likely to occur inside the area known as Tornado Alley. Even the Crossroads has seen its share of tornado damage, and we face a yearly threat of hurricane strikes. With that in mind, we encourage residents who wanted to help during the recent disasters to take this opportunity to connect with area nonprofit agencies and receive training so they will be better equipped the next time a disaster strikes.

Our area has a system in place for a reactive response to a disaster, but we also need to focus on developing a proactive system so we can be prepared before a situation arises. For residents who want to help, that means teaming up with area nonprofit organizations or government agencies to develop necessary skills and receive training for disaster response.

The Victoria Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has a program called Victoria Partners in Preparedness Program, which is a partnership between public and private groups to share information and resources before, during and after disasters, according to the OEM website. This partnership is divided into sections including community, animal issues, amateur radio, donations, education and more. Each of these sections includes organizations that offer training for volunteers. We encourage residents who want to help to find an organization that offers training close to their interests or skill sets. Once you are connected with an organization, it will be easier to utilize your skills and coordinate with any recovery efforts. According to Lacey, volunteers should avoid self-deployment, or going on their own to a disaster area. If volunteers are untrained and are not coordinating with a group directly involved in recovery efforts, good intentions could instead result in increased confusion. The best plan is to create connections now so volunteers are ready to move when a disaster occurs.

We agree. The Crossroads needs a proactive volunteer community in the event of a disaster. We encourage residents to look into and receive training to help in disaster situations. Disasters can strike anywhere. Next time, it could be us.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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