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It’s Time to Get Good & Ready for Disasters

September 19, 2012

Today’s guest post comes from our AmeriCorps Alums North Texas Chapter Leader and AmeriCorps NCCC Alum, Lisa Tatum.

When I served on Disaster Response assignment with AmeriCorps *NCCC in 1998, I had no idea that I was starting on the Emergency Management career path. That one month on assignment in the San Francisco area was an amazing experience. Helping with their flood response in the area of logistics taught me about all of the coordination that is needed in a disaster response. I learned to drive a forklift, helped provide supplies to the larger response, and even helped with client casework.

Shortly after leaving NCCC in 2001, I moved to Dallas to take a position with the American Red Cross as a logistics specialist.  In this role, I was given the opportunity to manage the National Preparedness and Response Corps program and supervised 28 AmeriCorps Members. I was in this role when Hurricane Katrina hit and helped to manage the second largest sheltering operation the American Red Cross has ever conducted (the largest was in Houston during that time).  The highlight of my Hurricane Katrina experience was seeing my AmeriCorps Members in action.

Lisa’s NPRC team of AmeriCorps members

This response took place just three days after their training. They serve tirelessly for several months in extreme situations (primarily sheltering and logistics). I remember one 19 year old member who conducted training to a room of more than a hundred volunteers while standing on a chair so everyone could see her.  Though they were a newly formed team, the members consistently checked on each other and encouraged one another. I am convinced that is how everyone managed to get through that difficult time.

Now I support the American Red Cross as a part of the Mass Care Task Force. The Mass Care Task Force is a partnership that was formed after Hurricane Katrina.  The Chief Executive Officers of the American Red Cross North Texas Region, The Salvation Army DFW Metroplex Command, the North Texas Food Bank and the Volunteer Center of North Texas decided, “We can do better”.  In a large disaster the American Red Cross will shelter, the Salvation Army will feed, the North Texas Food Bank will provide food and the Volunteer Center of North Texas will manage spontaneous volunteers.  All parties doing what they do best.

I work for the Volunteer Center, developing the volunteer intake and management process. This means working with the unique culture of each participant organization in order to honor their risk management practices and specific needs.  This process will allow spontaneous volunteers to serve in a variety of roles more quickly and effectively. During Katrina, I felt a lot of the same frustration that the community felt in that they did not know how to serve and there was no clear process.   The best part is that this model can be used outside of North Texas because each of the partners have corresponding National Organizations who have pledged their support of the initiative.

AmeriCorps Alums of North Texas

In addition to my professional role, I serve as the Chapter Leader for AmeriCorps Alums North Texas. I firmly believe that AmeriCorps Alums are uniquely suited to support disaster response in their local communities, due to their experience in serving others and working with volunteers. I encourage all AmeriCorps Alums to get involved.

The first step is to get personally prepared; getting together with family, close friends, neighbors, and other important people to plan what you would do in case of disaster. Fires happen, floods happen, tornadoes happen and you need to know how best to deal with those situations when they arise.  This can include creating a communications plan to let people know you are safe, putting together a supply kit with essentials you may need, and identifying hazards in your home or neighborhood you could mitigate to make yourself safer. There are a multitude of websites that you can use, including Good and Ready.

The next step is to find a way to support your community when disasters occur. I am a firm believer in the Citizen’s Corps programs. Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) are very specific to an area and connect you with the best resources and other people in your area who want to help. The training is pretty interesting and includes hands on components. People also have the option of connecting with local disaster response organizations like the American Red Cross. There is something out there for everyone.

AmeriCorps Alums of North Texas is actively pursuing a relationship with local AmeriCorps programs and our state commission, the One Star Foundation, to provide training support for currently serving AmeriCorps Members and Alums. It is our hope that all individuals who what to help in times of disaster know exactly what to do and where to serve.

It’s time to be prepared. 

September is National Disaster Preparedness Month and it’s time to pledge to get Good & Ready! Join Points of Light and our partners, the American Red Cross and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes in preparing communities to recover from disasters.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. Amber permalink
    September 19, 2012 10:15 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and it is such a testimony for all AmeriCorps across the US. Thank you for serving!

  2. Emory Mills permalink
    September 19, 2012 10:19 am

    Lisa has a passion for helping others, and is well-versed in disaster relief efforts and volunteering. I am proud to say I’ve known Lisa for 20 years, and she is a model citizen, volunteer, and human being as well as an excellent teacher and leader. Great job Lisa and all those who are so dedicated to help wherever there is a need!

  3. September 19, 2012 10:32 am

    AmeriCorps has done so much to integrate Disaster Preparedness into the fabric of our social services, as it should be!

  4. September 19, 2012 10:50 am

    Thanks for the ideas on ways to continue to be involved after our AmeriCorps service. I still volunteer with the Red Cross because of the experiences I had with disaster relief in NCCC more than ten years ago. (Lisa doesn’t mention that she was specifically chosen from her team for that first disaster relief experience because she was one of the hardest working and most reliable people in the Corps.)

  5. Jess Wade permalink
    September 19, 2012 11:57 am

    Excellent capsule of how AmeriCorps volunteers have committed themselves to serving their communities. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Marilyn Williams permalink
    September 19, 2012 11:58 am

    Thanks so much Lisa for sharing. It’s very encouraging to know that these groups have taken time, and effort, to learn from previous disasters-to become better prepared, and that there are excellent, practical resources to help us all be better prepared.
    Wish the federal government could learn from this model.

  7. Lavonne Adams permalink
    September 19, 2012 12:33 pm

    Thanks, Lisa, for making the point that to help in disaster relief we need to be personally prepared and also connected within the community.

  8. Moneek permalink
    September 19, 2012 12:34 pm

    Awesome blog… I miss my days in AmeriCorps at the Dallas Red Cross. Lisa and all those who are like her are truly the unsung heroes in Disaster Preparedness!!

  9. September 19, 2012 12:47 pm

    I love that all those organizations are working together, doing what each does best! That is the only way we will be effective! And thanks for the reminder to be proactive — once an emergency happens, it’s a little late to plan ahead. Thanks for all you and your team do!

  10. September 19, 2012 1:33 pm

    It’s so important to be educated about how to serve PRIOR to a disaster. Thank you for being a voice in the community to tell us all how to do that.

  11. Suzanne Calvano permalink
    September 19, 2012 2:35 pm

    Awesome blog post, Lisa! You definitely have a passion for community service. You live it out each and every day of your life and are such a wonderful example for all of us. I miss our days together at AmeriCorps*NCCC, but I enjoy keeping up with what you are doing now. You are an inspiration.

  12. younger permalink
    September 19, 2012 3:58 pm

    Great article on the need for prepared communities. I’ll never forget, even being 2 hours inland in College Station, has drastic the effects of Katrina on our city. Reed Arena housed hurricane victims for over a month. Well said Lisa, a great call to action.

  13. Kim Smith permalink
    September 19, 2012 4:07 pm

    Lisa, way to get the word out! Its just like you to be proactive instead of reactive! You’re a super influence on how to collaborate & partner to make our communites better! Glad to know you are on my team here in DFW!

  14. Cassie Holtz permalink
    September 19, 2012 4:30 pm

    Its amazing how a year of service can impact a life direction. I know AmeriCorps did that for me. I can’t imagine not having had that experience. Thanks for giving so much back to the org that gave so much to me!

  15. Rodney Looney permalink
    September 19, 2012 6:04 pm

    Lisa,, you did an excellent job, I believe you hit on every point that you needed to make. I felt proud to be apart of what your blog was describing. I am and will always be proud of being an AmeriCorp Alum of North Texas. I only wish I could be more active than I current am.

  16. Stephanie permalink
    September 19, 2012 7:47 pm

    Cool. Good job Lisa. I often wonder how my life would have been different if I would have joined the Peace Corp like I wanted to instead of doing what was expected of me. Life is good so I can’t complain…but I wonder.

  17. Sharon Morioka-Estrada permalink
    September 19, 2012 8:31 pm

    Fantastic post, Lisa — you are an inspiration to all of us!

  18. ethel greenwood permalink
    September 19, 2012 10:29 pm

    I am amazed to see just some of the things Lisa has accomplished in the last twenty years. When we were in college, I asked her what she wanted to do for a living. She replied, “I want to help people.” She has achieved her goal on an epic scale. Congratulations MyLisa.

  19. Erin permalink
    September 20, 2012 12:35 am

    Lisa, you are doing such wonderful work! You are an inspiration to all who help others and continue to serve.

  20. Erin Howard permalink
    September 20, 2012 3:08 am

    Lisa, you were an amazing leader that made it possible for me to experience informative, social and educational events I would never have experienced otherwise.

  21. Lori Wilson permalink
    September 20, 2012 8:04 am

    Lisa, you have such wisdom and are able to communicate so effecitvely that people understand. You are a leader that walks the walk and talks the talk. Keep up the great work and thanks for all that you do.

  22. Mike Burwell permalink
    September 20, 2012 10:07 am

    Good article. Thank you for you passion to serve others.

  23. September 20, 2012 2:40 pm

    This is most helpful for me on my personal Homefront. Thank you. I would love to support this effort by creating awareness amongst our yoga community. I’ll be in touch.

  24. Linda permalink
    September 20, 2012 9:24 pm

    Great post Lisa! I am proud to have served with you in AmeriCorps NCCC San Diego. Keep up the great work!

  25. Alex Suarez permalink
    September 20, 2012 9:58 pm

    Thank you Lisa for transporting me back in time. Ah the memories of that unprecedented event that we can now say is part of our personal history. We learned a lot through that time. I appreciate that you continue to serve and make our world a better place. By the way, I seem to remember that very same young lady you spoke of on the chair. She was an is an awesome person.

  26. September 22, 2012 5:59 pm

    Thank you for your post Lisa! It was so great hearing of your personal experience and growth as an individual in serving the community. Your heart of serving/volunteering is an inspiration to me and many many others.

  27. Mom permalink
    September 23, 2012 8:31 am


  28. Jeff Otero permalink
    September 24, 2012 5:44 pm

    This is a good post Lisa. Makes me wonder what role our church might be able to play.

  29. Ruth Galvan permalink
    September 24, 2012 6:39 pm

    This was a great blog! Thank you for sharing your experience.

  30. Brian Winchell permalink
    September 27, 2012 1:19 pm

    Lisa, you and your peers provide critical services to hurting people, while they’re consumed with despair. Obviously natural disasters can never be avoided entirely; nonetheless, because of your selfless service, you bring a little sunshine to people during their darkest days. Thank You for what you do!


  1. North Texas Alum to help with disaster relief for Sandy | americorpsalumsnorthtexas

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