As hurricane season 2018 is now upon us, it seems as if organizations and disaster professionals are looking more and more back to the 2017 season to review lessons learned. And why not? The lessons learned from the response to Harvey, Irma, and Maria will last generations. Especially with the release of FEMA’s 2017 Hurricane Season After-Action Report, a fruitful conversation has erupted about the response to an unprecedented series of disasters. While there were many takeaways from the report, the description of the importance of voluntary organizations and National VOAD members to recovery efforts is clear.
The report makes clear that “there is no easy or one-size-fits all solution” to the problems presented by three massive hurricanes impacting wide swaths of the United States, but that by working together at the federal, state and local level we can immediately improve our response efforts. The after-action report specifically mentions the importance of National VOAD members taking the lead on rebuild and repair efforts across the country. In addition, the work of National VOAD members in the VALOR program was put under a spotlight, as was the coordination and collaboration between National VOAD members and the Crisis Action Planning Team.
Community preparedness continues to be a focus for FEMA, and National VOAD members are a crucial part of that effort. National VOAD members are often operational at the state, local, tribal and territorial (SLTT) level, which has become a priority for FEMA. This prioritization allows the organization to better assist communities be prepared for ‘rainy-days’.
The lessons learned from 2017 will improve the way that National VOAD members communicate and coordinate with their local, state and federal partners and members. The FEMA after-action report is just one of the many important steps forward that have been taken since the end of the last hurricane season. Realizing that the work that National VOAD members do in communities around the country is crucial to disaster relief and recovery efforts will only allow for our agencies to serve more people in need, at a higher level.
Developing the State VOAD system, and building new tools for our members are both priorities for National VOAD heading into the 2018 hurricane season. These priorities are in direct response to the lessons learned in 2017 and will allow for our members to better prepare communities before disaster, better serve communities during disaster, and provide better relief services to impacted communities after disaster. The disaster cycle is just that, a cycle, because it is continuous. Hurricane season 2017 really underlined that lesson, and showed that we need to continue to strive to do more to prepare communities across the United States and it’s territories for disaster.