Community members form oversight group to coordinate disaster response

2016 Roaring Lion Fire southwest of Hamilton

Community members in the Bitterroot Valley are organizing an oversight group to make sure agencies aren't overlapping each other, causing confusion, or wasting money during future disasters.

The following is a press release asking organizations to meet at the Salvation Army in Hamilton, Thursday June 21st at 7:00 p.m.

Planned Organization to Better Prepare the Community for Disasters


By Brian Wrede and Dallas Erickson

June 12, 2018

The Roaring Lion Fire in 2016 was a lesson learned by agencies and Non-Profit organizations involved in helping people in disasters. An organization is being formed to organize such efforts, when needed again, to allow a more correlated response to calamities that may befall our county.

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) was founded over 40 years ago in response to the challenges many disaster organizations experienced following Hurricane Camille, a category 5 storm that hit the Gulf Coast in August 1969. Up until that time, numerous governmental, private sector and nonprofit organizations served disaster survivors independently of one another. As a result, help came to the survivors haphazardly.

Unnecessary duplication of effort often occurred, while at the same time, other needs were not met. People who wanted to volunteer to help their neighbors affected by disaster were often frustrated by the variety of organizations competing in some areas of service or the total lack of opportunities to serve other apparent urgent needs. Further, there was only limited availability to training for potential volunteers. Access to information on services available to survivors during disasters was woefully inadequate.

In 1970, seven national disaster response organizations convened for the first time to find a way to better coordinate responses and more effectively serve disaster survivors and their communities. As an outcome, National VOAD was formed as a forum for sharing knowledge and coordinating resources — money, materials and manpower – throughout the disaster cycle: preparation, response and recovery.

It is a mistaken belief that only government agencies help people to pick up their lives and recover from a disaster. A vast majority of that help is given by organizations that reach out to those in need after a disaster. After the Roaring Lion fire, the people in Ravalli County, and actually throughout Western Montana and Salmon, Idaho, stepped forward with donations of all kinds from food to clothing and offers of care for pets and animals. Those donations, unless there are places to distribute them and store them, can create a secondary need for volunteers and warehouse space. With the Roaring Lion fire there was initial confusion about shelters and where they would be located.

When a disaster happens there is confusion about these things unless they have been discussed and planned for in advance. For example, who will set up shelters and where will they be? Who has the volunteers and the ability to take in donations of clothing to sort them and clean them and prepare them to be given out? Where can we set up a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) to make it more convenient for those affected by the disaster to do a one stop shopping for help and resources?

Because of that and because of the success of VOAD, local non-profits and government agencies are supporting the formation of Ravalli County Organizations Active in Disasters (RCOAD). This will be a group of Non-Profits as members, working together with government agencies that will meet and train and be prepared to help in a disaster.

Organizations involved as members thus far are: The Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church, The Salvation Army, The American Red Cross, Corvallis United Methodist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Charities. The search is ongoing for other local Ravalli County organizations that are involved in assisting disaster victims or desire to.

We have another organizational meeting scheduled for June 21st at 7:00 PM to be held at the Salvation Army office in Hamilton at 1591 N 1st St next to NAPA Auto Store. If you desire to take part please contact Brian Wrede at (406)369-5813 or or Dallas Erickson at (406)240-5277 or Organization to Better Prepare the Community for Disasters

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