Community Organizations Active in Disaster

April 19th, 2018

No two disasters are alike. The impact on each individual is different. The needs of each are unique and often unmet. However, a community and its citizens are unquestionably better served if a Community Organization Active in Disaster (COAD) is in place for planning and education long before a disaster strikes.

Communities that bring resources together in a COAD can increase the effectiveness of their response to the needs of disaster survivors in a timely way, thereby reducing the social and economic impact of the disaster.

Here are basic steps you need to follow for facilitating your local COAD or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) through Extension. Where applicable, the PDF links after each step are either examples or resources for the step.

Questions or comments can be directed to the material developers, Carrie McKillip,  Mike Gaffney, or to the EDEN Project Coordinator, Abby Hostetler.

Review your capacity.

As Extension Professionals, there are many projects to undertake, and an office can quickly get overwhelmed. If the local office has the capacity to lead the development of the COAD, it must be included as part of the overall plan of work. The pilot project through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) focused on rural counties in several states. Many of the resources this document links to are from the pilot experiences.

Get the support of your local Emergency Management Director (EMD) and your state voluntary agency liaison (VAL).

This is critical!! You can’t move forward without support from your EMD. If you don’t know this person, make an appointment to meet and get to know each other.

Identify other agencies and organizations that need to be part of the COAD.

Make a list of agencies and organizations in your community, as well as those serving your community that may be headquartered in another community, who have a role in emergency management or emergency human services. Be sure to include the faith-based community.

Invite agencies and organizations to a COAD organizational meeting.

A letter of invitation will receive the best response if it is co-signed by your EMD.

Developing Leadership, bylaws, policies and not-for-profit status for the COAD.

Getting organized and becoming a recognized COAD by the state Emergency Management Agency is important. It is also crucial in this step to identify either an existing 501(c)3 to serve as fiscal agent, or begin proceedings to become a stand-alone 501(c)3. In most cases, tapping into an existing 501 (c)3 is the best choice.

Determine Functional Areas or Annexes your COAD will address.

Your COAD will need to prioritize the areas they will address.

COAD Member training.

In order to be effective before, during, and after a disaster, COAD members need training. There are many avenues for training, including the on-line NIMS trainings, or in person FEMA Trainings, Conferences etc. Also, your state emergency management agency may have additional training resources. As an Extension Project, you may also choose to utilize EDEN Resources for trainings. Below are some possible options for COAD Member Trainings.

Keeping the COAD alive and healthy during non-disaster times.

Participation during a disaster is high; but what about after the disaster is over and the needs have been met? Each COAD will need to determine how they will stay active in times where disasters have not been an issue. Below are some exercises and drills that might be useful to keep COAD members engaged. Also included are ideas or programs pilot sites have used to keep members engaged.

Exercise materials:

This resource funded by: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative (FADI) and supported by: Washington State University,University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign,University of Missouri