2014-09-12 / In the Know

Community organizations active in disaster

By Nancy E. Crowell
Special to the Leader

Each community has an emergency response team led by an emergency management director.

These responders may be skilled volunteers or, as in Scarborough, highly trained professionals.

When an emergency occurs these people are trained to stay at the scene of the event until the danger to life and property have subsided.

With the potential for major events, from terrorist acts or technological accidents, to natural disasters and pandemics, FEMA has recognized the importance of the local community in helping with the recovery and rebuilding effort.

It has created the concept of Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD).

A COAD consists of people, organizations, and businesses in a community, who are immediately available, and in close proximity to a disaster.

These people or groups have communicated prior to an incident to share what resources they may have to assist, such as staff, warehouse space, vehicles, supplies or shelter.

The COAD may be called to assist shortly after a disaster when first responders have left the scene. The COAD members may also assist in long-term recovery in the months after national agencies or government help have left the area.

Southern Maine COAD (SMCOAD) was an outgrowth of organizations that assisted in the recovery of the 2006 Mother’s Day Flood and the 2007 Patriots’ Day Storm.

The United Ways of York and Cumberland counties helped convene the first meetings and today the COAD includes members from both counties. SMCOAD may be mobilized by either county’s emergency management agency.

One of SMCOAD’s responsibilities is to coordinate spontaneous or unaffiliated volunteers who respond to disasters.

Scarborough Public Library assisted the town in coordinating volunteers to help some of our citizens clear their yards and basements of debris following the 2007 storm.

This emergency response role proved to be a logical fit for the public library with its extensive knowledge of the community. The library joined SMCOAD in 2008 to enhance our response potential.

When a disaster happens, it is natural for people to want to help their neighbors. But too many people may put themselves or others in danger without the proper direction, equipment, or knowledge of the situation.

When requested by the emergency management agency SMCOAD will open a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) at a convenient location in order to screen volunteers, assess their skills, and send them to the area of greatest need.

A second ongoing mission of SMCOAD is public information.

You may see our members at community events or meetings, providing information about how you can prepare your family, your home, and your business in case of an emergency.

Brochures are always available to pick up at Scarborough Public Library. and you will find links to more information on the library’s website scarboroughlibrary.org, or at www.ready. gov.

SMCOAD conducts regular workshops for volunteers who are willing to be called to help staff a VRC. The next training is on Friday, Sept. 19 at Piper Shores in Scarborough.

For more information about SMCOAD, please visit SouthernMaineCOAD. org. For more information about the workshop, or to register, please call Nancy Crowell at 396-6266.

Nancy E. Crowell is director of Scarborough Public Library.

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