The Summer of 4C’s: Public-Private Collaboration in Response

This summer brought several rounds of flash flooding to Pennsylvania, primarily in the central part of the commonwealth. Schuylkill County had significant damage in both the first and second series of storms in July and August. The early August flash flooding was more widespread with homes affected from the Philadelphia area all the way to the northern tier counties bordering New York. The third flash flooding was primarily in York and Lancaster Counties with Mt. Joy Borough getting 8 inches of rain in less than four hours. Finally (so far!), Tioga County suffered a second round of flash flooding from the Florence remains.

PA VOAD began coordination calls right after the second set of flash floods. Two areas of Cooperation, Communication, Coordination and Collaboration developed. During one call, the request for unmet needs was answered, “Large capacity dehumidifiers.” Mold prevention is just as an important part of the cleanup process as sanitizing.

We asked if any members could help. We quickly received a response from our LDS member who obtained funding from Latter Day Saints Charities for 36 70 pint dehumidifiers.

PA VOAD works very closely with our partners at Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). When we shared the good news about the LDS funding, Molly Doughty, External Affairs Director, gave us the name of a person at Lowe’s who she thought could help with price and possibly also with donations.

The gentleman at Lowe’s Command Central listened to our request for a matching gift of an additional 36 dehumidifiers and asked for a couple of days to push the request through their corporate hierarchy. He was successful, and a few days later he emailed that we could buy 36 at regular price – $249 each -, and Lowe’s would give us an additional 36. He then arranged to hall all 72 delivered to a Lowe’s in the Harrisburg area.

PEMA provided a truck and driver to pick them up and bring them to PEMA HQ. Volunteers from PA Lions Disaster Relief, United Church of Christ and Episcopal Diocese of Central PA met at PEMA and labeled the dehumidifiers. A Southern Baptist truck picked up thirty for use in the Northern Tier Counties where they were working. UMCOR picked up twelve the same day for a county where they were mucking out and cleaning up. A few days later, twenty more went to another county where UMCOR was working. When the homes are dried out and the dehumidifiers are no longer needed, Mission Central, an UMCOR affiliate will store them in their warehouse until the next flood.

Pennsylvania VOADs efforts to utilize public-private partnerships should be an inspiration to other VOAD members looking to leverage limited resources throughout the disaster cycle. This is the vision of the VOAD movement, bringing all of these forces together to achieve a greater goal.