GA creates regional VOADs

Georgia will soon see a network of eight regional Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) coalitions.


"It's so good to start these interagency relationships now so these groups can already know each other."

—Bob Tribble

Georgia will soon see a network of eight regional Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) coalitions in addition to its state-level VOAD. Modeled after the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) system that divides Georgia up into eight regions, the idea was initiated by Lutheran Disaster Response Georgia Coordinator and Georgia State VOAD Vice President Bob Tribble.

"The problem was that every time there was a disaster, we had to start at zero as far as getting all the local organizations to know and work with each other," explained Tribble, who also serves as Evangelical Lutheran Church of America disaster coordinator for the Bishop and Synod of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. "There are 159 counties in Georgia, so we're trying to avoid this confusion in the future."

Tribble enlisted the help of Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Lesli Remaly. Together, they brought in other organizations such as the Humane Association of Georgia, Georgia Faith-Based Initiative, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to start the initial brainstorming on which additional groups around the state could join the regional VOADs.

"I'm grateful for Lesli's help," said Tribble. "She really knew how to organize and get us moving in the right direction."

Last week Tribble, Remaly and FEMA Voluntary Agency Liaison Ken Skalitzky met with the eight regional GEMA coordinators, who quickly signed off on the plan as something that could significantly help disaster survivors.

"They agreed to host the first regional VOAD meetings at their own monthly regional meetings," said Remaly. "Those meetings include all the county emergency coordinators of that area, so we felt really good about that."

Tribble added that even though that meeting was only last Tuesday, the plan is already progressing. "Two of the regional meetings are already set up," he said. "I feel very fortunate that this is all going as well as it's going."

Other agencies now involved include the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Atlanta Diocese of Episcopal Relief and Development, Presbyterian Disaster Response, the American Red Cross (ARC) and The Salvation Army.

"It's so good to start these interagency relationships now so these groups can already know each other," said Tribble.

Remaly said that the regional VOADs will set up, then focus on establishing long-term training and organizing. "Some great steps were taken last week. It was very successful," she said. "We hope to expand a strong network across the state."

According to a final report written by Tribble and Remaly on last week's meetings, discussions with coordinators of Georgia's ARC noted that several counties in Georgia already have similar area organizations. The ARC started a 30-member voluntary organization in Fannin County several years ago, and Troupe County has had one since 1997.

While the plan is just in its organizing stage in Georgia, other states could see similar programs started as well. Remaly will attend the next Mississippi state VOAD meeting to share the Georgia initiative with them, something Tribble said he would certainly help with should they need him.

He added that he would love to see this system go nationwide. "The more prepared we are, the better off we'll be when a disaster does happen," he said. "If it works well in Georgia, we'll let others know about it."

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