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NVOAD releases recovery manual

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) released a revised and updated "Long-Term Recovery Manual" available at the NVOAD Web site.

BY SUSAN KIM | LOUISVILLE, Ken. | May 17, 2004

"We strived for a comprehensive document, including the latest and newest information, to be immensely helpful to those who assist disaster-struck communities."

—Art Jackson

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) released a revised and updated "Long-Term Recovery Manual" available at the NVOAD Web site.

"We are delighted to offer this update for use by anyone involved in disaster response, from community and faith-based recovery groups, to state and federal response agencies, and especially to our NVOAD members and partner groups," said Arthur Jackson, chair of NVOAD's long-term recovery committee.

NVOAD members began their annual conference today in Louisville, Ken., and will convene through Friday.

NVOAD is a coalition that aims to streamline planning efforts by many voluntary organizations responding to disasters. The goal is to provide less duplication in service by communicating with each other before disaster strikes. Once disasters occur, NVOAD or an affiliated state VOAD encourages members and other voluntary agencies to convene on site. NVOAD helps a wide variety of volunteers and organizations work together in a crisis.

Jackson, who also represents the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee as well as Church World Service (CWS), said as many as 50 people reviewed and provided input into the design and content of the latest long-term recovery manual.

"We strived for a comprehensive document, including the latest and newest information, to be immensely helpful to those who assist disaster-struck communities," he said.

The 33-page manual overviews successful models for organizing long-term recovery structures, offering hands-on tips and sequential steps for those not experienced in handling post-disaster situations.

It overviews the phases of a disaster, as well as definitions of a state and federally declared disaster. Then it details steps of operating a long-term recovery group, providing sample by-laws, a sample board structure, and other operational essentials.

There is no rigid definition for a successful long-term recovery group model, explains the manual. Depending on the community involved, the group can become a long-term recovery organization with a formal structure; a long-term recovery committee that provides a "table" or a venue for collaborative and coordinated recovery efforts; or an interfaith or faith-based group that has faith community values and leadership in its core mission.

After these long-term recovery models are explained, a dozen appendices - what NVOAD members like to call "the tool box" -- offers a "one-stop shopping center" for information on everything from commonly used acronyms to donations management.

"The tool box provides information and sample documents designed to enhance areas of activity and structure," explained Linda Reed Brown, associate director for domestic response with CWS. She served on the revision task force with Jackson.

Expanded appendices feature sections on donations, as well as volunteer and case management. There are new appendices on emotional, spiritual and mental health care in long-term recovery, and on mitigation. "All serve to make this manual a valuable resource," said Bev Hoover of the American Red Cross, who also served on the revision task force.

The NVOAD board of directors believes the manual will enhance sustainable recovery efforts, said Cheryl Tyiska of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. Tyiska is president of the NVOAD.

"The inclusion of the VOAD movement as a partner in long-term recovery serves as an encouragement and reminder to state, county and community VOADs of the need for their particular combined efforts in disaster response," she said.

Jackson said NVOAD plans to translate the manual into Spanish. "The manual will also be subject to regular updates and even expansion for a rapidly changing world of disaster recovery," he said.

Jackson said the revised manual builds on work done in years past. "I want to acknowledge the terrific work done on the original manual in 1999. That document has been of great use in organizing and operating long-term recovery groups, and in understanding the value of partnering," he said. "Enhanced tools for assisting in the organizational and operational aspects of long-term recovery efforts such as the value of mental, emotional and spiritual care, and emphasis on education and mitigation, along with an updated NVOAD member services section and Web site pages make this a current and hopefully a user-friendly document."

Long-term response is an ever-changing field, he added. "Substantial changes have occurred in both early response and long-term recovery, including reorganization in many of the national response partners. We plan to have a small task force continually looking at this manual with a view to keeping it current, although we desire to give it an appropriate period as written before doing other than adding more helps to the 'tool box' area."

The tools offered in the revised manual reflect what seems to be an increasing trend of donor accountability and record-keeping requirements, said Jackson. "We realize that additional documentation requirements are placed on community and faith-based recovery groups, especially in financial and case management record keeping and reporting," he said.

The manual offers suggestions for financial controls - including tips on developing a budget - to assure donors that the recovery group takes seriously its public trust.

Ideally, a long-term recovery group is able to "work itself out of a job" while leaving a loose structure in place to cope with the next disaster. The manual offers steps for closing out a recovery group if all disaster-related needs have been met, if resources are exhausted, or if all cases have been referred to other providers.

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