State officials say volunteers are the key to recovery after disaster strikes.
September is preparedness month in Nebraska, an encouragement to prepare for the worst.
Bryan Tuma, Assistant Director with the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, says volunteers are vital to recovering after disaster, as demonstrated when, two years ago, a tornado nearly wiped Pilger off the map.
“We can’t emphasize enough: individuals need to have plans, businesses need to plan, but we also need to plan for how we engage our volunteers when something happens as well,” Tuma tells reporters.
Tuma says volunteers play a critical role in response and recovery, but also in the planning stages.
State officials want Nebraska residents, businesses, and organizations to review their preparedness for emergencies and disasters during this month. A review of past steps taken and a refresh of plans would be in order. The rule of thumb is that we all need provisions of bottled water and non-perishable food to get us by for the first 72 hours of a disaster, enough to stretch provision while waiting for response to form.
State officials recently joined with American Red Cross officials to announce the Prepared Communities Initiative will use three steps to help 100 Nebraska communities better prepare for disasters by recruiting volunteers, sponsoring blood drives, and setting long-term preparedness goals, among other steps.
Tuma says the state used the rapid tag system to track the volunteers who helped Pilger recover. Each volunteer received credentials and the work they did, whether picking up debris or manning a kitchen, was recorded, then its value calculated to offset the local match required by the federal disaster declaration. Under such a declaration, the federal government pays 75% of the cost, the state chips in 12 ½% with the local entity paying the remaining 12 ½%.
“For Pilger, it made all the difference in the world,” Tuma says. “It literally saved that small community from going under.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]