By Nancy Vaughan
For The Herald Bulletin
As I write, gray, ominous skies loom outside; weather reports predict strings of strong storms and possible tornadoes across the Midwest while television news broadcasts frightening images of funnel clouds and scenes of destruction to our west.
Weather-related disasters are a fact of life this time of year. And, for the first time since 2008, when Madison County COAD (Community Organization Active in Disaster) formed, flooding in Elwood put years of planning to the test.
COAD is an umbrella organization for public, private and nonprofit agencies that have worked to enhance the county’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters, thus ensuring that human needs inherent in a disaster situation are evaluated and addressed. United Way launched the local COAD with the assistance of a planning grant from the Indiana Association of United Ways and Kim Rogers-Hatfield, United Way’s Vice President of Operations, facilitates.
The group responded to the Elwood event by making connections to bring in food and supplies, identifying immediate and long range needs of affected residents, organizing volunteers to assist with cleanup, and providing information and documentation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to facilitate Federal assistance. The work in Elwood is far from over, and local partners are already assessing ways to improve both immediate and long term actions; however, neighboring counties were envious of Madison County’s response.
Madison County COAD organizations include American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis, Anderson Police Department Chaplaincy, Aspire Indiana, Indiana Board of Animal Health, Madison County Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security, Madison County Health Department, Madison County Sheriff Department Chaplaincy, Madison County PlayCare Action Team, Salvation Army — Anderson Citadel, Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana, Connect2Help/211, United Way of Madison County/RSVP & Hoosier Corps Volunteers, First United Methodist Church of Anderson, Parkview Church of the Nazarene of Anderson, and St. Vincent Health.
Through the efforts of COAD, a network of emergency shelters has been established with 21 churches and two community centers, disaster response volunteers have been trained, a communication plan has been developed, a child care plan for volunteers and victims has been created, mock disasters have been held to test systems and plans, and now an actual flood event has been addressed.
COAD will continue to work to mitigate and respond to disasters in our community. Activities include public awareness education and training, creation of resources and services, and collaboration with emergency management agencies. Response activities include communications, donation and volunteer management, and coordination of services by responding organizations.
Recovery activities include identification of unmet community needs, connection to services, ongoing donations and resource management, and victim advocacy. COAD has identified types of shelters, actions to precede the opening of shelters, management of shelters, and additional priorities related to food and water, volunteer and donation management, and recovery systems for future development.
For more information about COAD, including how to volunteer, visit www.unitedwaymadisonco.org/about/disaster-relief-coad-volunteer
Nancy Vaughan is president of United Way of Madison County Inc. Her column appears the fourth Sunday of each month.