TDEM VOLUNTARY AGENCY LIAISON ASSISTAS WITH HURRICANE SANDY RECOVERY
When Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast October 29th, 2012, thousands were without electricity, water, and shelter. Anna Tangredi, the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s Voluntary Agency Liaison (VAL) and member of the TDEM State Management Team, was invited to be on the volunteer and donations conference calls that were being held. As the VAL, Tangredi works with voluntary organizations for donations & volunteer management and long term recovery for individuals during and after a disaster. Dante Gliniecki, the VAL for the state of Missouri, asked Tangredi if she would be willing to fill a standing Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) request (for both New York and New Jersey) for donations managers after his team demobilized. NY and NJ had standing EMAC request for donations managers. Tangredi agreed to go with full TDEM support.
Once at the New York State Operations Center, Tangredi was directed to the donations management warehouse where the Donations Coordination Team (DCT) actively participated in conference calls with New York Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) and Long Island VOAD. These calls included training on the use of Aidmatrix*, a donations management system. The DCT consisted of Tangredi, FEMA staff, AmeriCorps volunteers and Adventist Community Services. As a part of the DCT, Tangredi was tasked with acceptance or rejection of donations from the Aidmatrix portal, approval for organizational use of Aidamatrix, generation of donation reports, warehouse inventory reports, volunteer hour reports and responsibility to ensure personnel support for the warehouse. Work conditions in the warehouse were not easy. While running water eluded the team, Tangredi managed to get a warming tent and some heat for warehouse volunteers. Sometimes it was colder inside the warehouse than it was outside. The DCT worked 7 - 10 hour days throughout Tangredi’s deployment.
Tangredi spent 20 days in New York and returned to Texas with several “lessons learned.” She underscores the need for a plan and the need to exercise that plan, including identifying roles and responsibilities. Tangredi states, “When you’ve got that plan down, exercise it again.” Tangredi learned that it takes more than volunteers. Volunteers can move mountains, but they still need a way to pay for fuel for trucks and forklifts. Volunteers in warehouses have basic necessities, such as running water, bathrooms (or at least portable toilets) and electricity.
Tangredi also learned the importance of tracking volunteer hours. Keeping track of these hours means money for the state, specifically when calculating the state’s match for FEMA recovery funds. On one of the New York VOAD conference calls, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) reported over 600,000 volunteer hours clearing debris. Each of those volunteer hours is worth $21 (using FEMA standards), equating to over $1 million towards the states FEMA match of 25%.
*Aidmatrix is the National Donations Management Network provided to each state through a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Each state has a portal administered by the donations coordinator. The network was originally funded by FEMA. Texas signed a MOU with Aidmatrix in September 2012. The state of New York signed theirs in November 2012 following Hurricane Sandy.