Relief effort needs better planning

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Sept. 9, 2017 at 3:06 p.m.
Updated Sept. 10, 2017 at 6:06 a.m.

Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey blasted through the Crossroads, relief and recovery efforts appear to be finally synchronizing.

Immediately after the storm, people jumped in to start helping, which is typical of Texans. But the problem was there appeared to be no planning and little communication so those coordinating the cleanup would know where to send people for social services and vice-versa.

This caused unneeded confusion in an already-difficult situation.

Disaster relief is being coordinated by the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. The social services organizations, such as the United Way, Victoria Christian Assistance Ministry and Community Action Committee, also are helping people find needed supplies.

The efforts are also helping local businesses coordinate their assistance.

For a while, they were working mostly in isolation from one another.

But after conversations began last week, the efforts have moved together. Phone banks are in place, and people are trained to answer the phone and direct people in the proper direction. A central area for seeking assistance has been established.

VOAD is still coordinating the efforts but has more voices and resources available. This will increase the availability of services long after the out-of-town workers have left to go help at another disaster.

The Crossroads is fortunate to not have major disasters on a frequent basis, but when it does, such volunteer efforts need to be coordinated and ready to go as soon as the affected area is safe.

Leaders of social services groups, who work with disaster contingency plans and whose daily work is to know the available resources, are invaluable components of the recovery effort.

The VOAD needs to be expanded to include social service organizations. They are the boots on the ground and will provide a more complete treasure trove of resources.

In coming months or years after the region has recovered from this disaster, the VOAD needs to remain active and prepared to respond. The group needs to meet on at least a quarterly basis to make sure all necessary resources are accounted for. When a disaster hits, all need to be prepared to hit the ground to help.

The relief workers and volunteers have provided tremendous amounts of help that will be remembered for years to come.

But the job is enormous and requires more than kind hearts and willing hands. For it to succeed, we must have coordinated efforts of all local, state and federal resources.

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


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