ARES Center Stage at 2012 MNVOAD Training Conference

I’m off and running with the online ARRL course on Emergency Communications! Already I’m learning new things. Take VOAD’s, for instance — I’d never heard of them in my life, but now, thanks to this course, I’m signed up to attend the 2012 MNVOAD Training Conference.

What is a VOAD? VOAD stands for “Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.” The first VOAD (and still the main VOAD) was NVOAD (National VOAD), born in 1970:

Hurricane Camille led to the formation of NVOAD. After Hurricane Camille, it became clear that voluntary agencies were responding to the needs of disaster victims in a fragmented, uncoordinated manner. Representatives from several voluntary agencies began to meet on a regular basis to share their respective activities, concerns, and frustrations in disaster response. On July 15, 1970, representatives from seven voluntary agencies came together in Washington, D.C. to form NVOAD. (FEMA course IS-288, “The Role of Voluntary Agencies in Emergency Management,” 2-11)

Those first seven agencies were the American Red Cross, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, National Catholic Disaster Relief Committee, Seventh Day Adventists, Society of St. Vincent De Paul and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Now there are nearly 50 agencies involved, including the ARRL:

The mission of NVOAD is to foster more effective service to people affected by disasters. NVOAD, itself, does not deliver disaster response and recovery services. NVOAD coordinates planning efforts by many voluntary organizations responding to disaster. Member organizations provide more effective service and less duplication by getting together before disasters strike. Once disasters occur, NVOAD or an affiliated state VOAD encourages members and other voluntary agencies to convene on site. This cooperative effort has proven to be the most effective way for a wide variety of volunteers and organizations to work together in a crisis. (4-9)

The state VOAD movement began five years after NVOAD was born:

Not long after the development of NVOAD, State and regional VOAD organizations were created to ensure an effective response to disasters at the State and local levels. The first State VOAD was formed in 1975. The VOAD movement initially grew without much order and without official sanction or direction from NVOAD. However, in 1988 NVOAD developed formal procedures for chartering State and local VOAD members. At this time, there are chartered State VOAD organizations in almost all the U.S. states and territories, and there are a growing number of local VOADs. (4-13)

The Minnesota VOAD has 37 member organizations, including the ARRL — and this year, RACES/ARES is taking center stage at the 2012 MNVOAD Training Conference on Saturday, March 24. The keynote speaker is Peter Angelos, KCØKRI:

9:00-10:00 Keystone Session – Pagami Creek Fire Response – Peter Angelos

The Lake County Emergency Management response to the Pagami Creek Fire (September 2011) and the role Lake County RACES/ARES played is a good example to illustrate effective and successful use of affiliated volunteer organizations in incident management. This presentation will outline a brief description of the incident, the specific support that RACES/ARES provided for logistical and situational communication, and most importantly–the organizational practices and principles that lead to success.

I’m looking forward to hearing what Mr. Angelos has to say about how RACES/ARES helped fight the Pagami Creek Fire.

But perhaps even more valuable for me will be the rest of the training day, which has nothing to do with Amateur Radio. After all, the whole point of VOAD is to learn how to work with one another efficiently and effectively when the time comes!

Todd Mitchell, NØIP, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Minnesota, USA. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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