By Andreas Butler
For Hometown News
Local agencies are teaming up to better prepare the community for disasters.
The Volusia Community Organizations Active in Disaster is a collaboration of groups and volunteers who plan to provide help during hurricanes, tornadoes and other disasters.
"We organize volunteers and resources from our community that can be used when there are gaps in services that can be provided by city, county, state or federal agencies during a disaster. We will also make a directory of the volunteers and the resources that they have," said Deannie Lowe, co-chair.
The other co-chair is former Volusia County Council Chair Frank Bruno.
The group recently met at the Volusia County Department of Health at 1825 Holsonback Drive in Daytona Beach.
"We have basically been reaching out to volunteers," said Ms. Lowe, the former Volusia County Supervisor of Elections. "We broke things down into two groups with one being preparedness and the other response and recovery. The meeting was fabulous. I am proud at how smooth things have gone so far."
So far, more than 70 volunteers have committed to help disaster relief efforts.
COADs aren't a new concept; there are others across Florida.
"These have been set up all across the state. Everyone is either setting one up or in the process of setting one up or have one in operation," Ms. Lowe said.
COAD is in partnership with the American Red Cross, United Way, Volusia County Health Department, Volusia County Emergency Operations Center and several faith-based organizations.
COAD has a steering committee with representatives from the organizations along with the chairpersons.
"We don't get in anybody's way. We go in after everybody has done their assessments," Ms. Lowe said. "For instance, there are certain levels of disaster that have to fit for agencies to take action. These government agencies at the federal, state, county and municipal level can get utilities working and clear roadways, but don't do personal property," said Lowe.
Such an organization is needed to help with disaster relief, according to COAD.
"Most people think that city, state, county, federal government or their insurance companies are going to take care of everything but that just doesn't happen," Ms. Lowe said. "They don't take care of things like a leaking roof, hole in your driveway and etc. That is where we plan to step in, take up the slack and get people back on their feet."
Local agencies say we are as prepared as any other place in the nation.
"We are actually above the rest," said Ray Parkhurst, Emergency Officer for Volusia/Flagler Red Cross. "We now have had way more practice than most states. We live in Florida where we normally do better with storm preparedness, because we have frequent storms, tornadoes and hurricanes. We have developed the processes, resources and volunteers. Just look at Hurricane Sandy and how many states weren't as equipped to handle the crises."
"I can tell from experience. I used to be the Supervisor of Elections and I worked at the Emergency Operations Center," Ms. Lowe said. "Volusia County is just as prepared if not more prepared than any county in Florida. We continue to do training and exercises to have us ready."
COAD will meet next at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21 at the Health Department on Holsonback Drive.
"We are encouraging groups, churches and business to join in," Ms. Lowe said. "They can send out a representative to the meeting to pass on information. We want to get people out ahead of the disaster."
For more information, to volunteer or to join, visit volusiacoad.org or call (386) 846-4673.