Texas Emergency Management ONLINE2011 Vol. 58 No. 9

The Role of Joint Assistance Centers in Disasters

Leander JAC
Williamson County residents donate clothes to the Leander Joint Assistance Center. Photo courtesy of Anna Tangredi.

WHAT IS A JOINT ASSISTANCE CENTER?
A Joint Assistance Center (JAC) offers direct resources and services to disaster survivors and assists local jurisdictions in expediting the recovery process. JACs were first established after Hurricane Rita in 2005. JACs provided a mechanism to move quickly to provide assistance to meet the immediate needs of survivors. This was done by bringing together local, county and state agencies along with voluntary disaster relief organizations and faith-based partners.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A JOINT ASSISTANCE CENTER?
The purpose of a JAC is to provide a central location for the rapid delivery of a wide variety of mass care resources. Bringing resources together under one roof bridges the gap from immediate mass care response to sustained mass care operations. It keeps traumatized disaster survivors from having to spend hours or days searching for emergency assistance and information.

WHAT KIND OF RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE?
A wide range of mass care resources can be provided, including individual and family emergency assistance, support from chaplains and public health services. A JAC provides disaster information specific to the particular community it serves. It’s also an opportunity to initiate state recovery programs when these are applicable for the specific disaster.

HOW DOES TDEM SUPPORT A JOINT ASSISTANCE CENTER?
Under the Mass Care Emergency Support Function (ESF) in the State Emergency Management Plan, the state (TDEM) has the responsibility to monitor and assess disasters that significantly impact local jurisdictions. The purpose is to ensure that the citizens of Texas are provided mass care support through requested resources and services available from state agencies and/or non-profit disaster relief organizations.

The size, severity or location of the disaster will determine whether the State Mass Care ESF is directly involved through state-level, coordinated support or whether assistance from state voluntary disaster relief organizations will be facilitated through their local counterparts.

Each jurisdiction in Texas, being unique in its ability to respond to and recover from disaster events, can best determine the process required to meet the needs of disaster survivors. For some jurisdictions, depending upon the event and the local impact, a Joint Assistance Center may offer the best solution to provide emergency assistance to disaster survivors.

The “concept” of opening a centralized assistance center by local jurisdictions desiring to meet the needs of disaster survivors has always been, and will continue to be, an option to provide direct services at the local level.

The distinct difference in a state supported Joint Assistance Center is the participation by State Mass Care working with state agencies, state disaster relief organizations, city and county jurisdictions, local businesses, and churches joining in one coordinated effort.

HOW MANY JOINT ASSISTANCE CENTERS HAS TDEM SUPPORTED?

  • Hurricane Rita (2005 Multiple Counties)
  • San Augustine Flood Event (2008)
  • North Texas Wildfires (2009 Multiple Counties)
  • Nolanville Flash Flood Event (2010)

WHO PARTICIPATES IN A JOINT ASSISTANCE CENTER?
Joint Assistance Center participating agencies may differ depending on the size, severity or location of the disaster or emergency event and the needs of disaster survivors. For example, wildfire events require different commodities and services from flash flood events.

JACs should have the ability to meet the immediate needs of disaster survivors not only with commodity support, but also with information and emergency assistance from organizations like local service club; faith-based organizations and churches; private sector businesses and city/county service representatives. These are organizations that can offer such services as emergency feeding; pantry replacement food boxes; water; ice; hygiene products; clothing; emergency financial assistance; clean up teams and services; mental health professional services and chaplain services.

HOW CAN I GET A JAC SET UP IN MY COMMUNITY?
To request state assistance in planning and establishing a Joint Assistance Center for your jurisdiction, or to determine if a JAC would be the most appropriate way to meet the needs of disaster survivors in your community, please contact your local District Coordinator. Your DC is your point of contact for coordinating the process as authorized by the State Mass Care Emergency Support Function.

Front Page Photo: American Red Cross of Central Texas volunteer Bill Dorman, TDEM Voluntary Agency Liaison Anna Tangredi, and Austin Disaster Relief Network member David Stone at the Leander JAC, which stood up in response to the fire in Williamson County Aug. 15, 2011. Photo courtesy of Anna Tangredi.


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