The coronavirus is challenging disaster relief response across the country… Cutting into critical volunteer support.
Many of those volunteers fall into high risk categories… And organizations are having to rethink how to safely respond.
Less than a month into hurricane season… Three named storms have already swept through. Disaster relief organizations were at the ready. But the pandemic is impacting the backbone of their operations- volunteers. 75-percent of the salvation army’s are over 65 years old.
Tameka Sharp/ Salvation Army:
“We are encouraging volunteers at a high risk for infection not to volunteer or volunteer in capacities that allow for greater social distancing.”
It’s a tough call to make as the country braces for severe weather and prime disaster conditions. Wildfires in the west… Tornadoes in the plains
An association of non-profits called the national voluntary organizations active in disasters estimates they’ll be able to send in about half as many volunteers as usual.
Greg Forrester/ President and CEO, National VOAD:
“We’re going to have to rely more heavily on local community based volunteers than we have in the past.”
Instead of dispatching large groups of volunteers, they may just send leadership to train local residents. The salvation army is doing so virtually — and may also supplement volunteer ranks with paid staff members. Although a key revenue generator, the organization’s thrift stores- have also been impacted by the pandemic. But both organizations say if the need is there… They will be too.
Tameka Sharp/ Salvation Army
“What we want people to know if we’ll take every precautionary measure.”
A changing disaster relief response strategy.. to keep volunteers and survivors safe.
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