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National Service and Disaster Response Fact Sheet

Every year, communities across the nation suffer the effects of natural and man-made disasters that disrupt the lives of millions of Americans. Disasters can lead to human losses, social problems, economic harm, and environmental damage. The very nature of a disaster leaves individuals and families with broken or stressed support networks to assist with response and recovery.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency, provides strong support, expertise, and trained and dedicated volunteers to help communities to prepare for, mitigate, respond, and recover from natural and man-made disasters. CNCS supports nonprofits, educational institutions, faith-based organizations and other groups in engaging citizens in meeting economic, health, social, and environmental needs caused by disasters. This includes a range of activities, such as volunteer coordination, feeding operations, home repairs, environmental clean up, needs assessments, client casework, and long-term recovery.

From forest fires and floods, to hurricanes and tornadoes, to terror attacks and oil spills, participants in CNCS programs have provided critical support to millions of Americans affected by disasters since 1994. Reflecting the agency's growing expertise and commitment in disaster services, the CNCS board of directors made disaster services one the agency's focus areas for its 2011-2015 strategic plan. These activities cover the full range of disaster services from response, to long-term recovery, preparedness, and mitigation.

Sample Disaster Project Activities

  • Volunteer Coordination
  • Shelter Operations
  • Debris Removal
  • Warehouse Management
  • Installing Accessibility Improvements on Homes and Shelters
  • Case Management
  • Disaster Recovery Center Support
  • Volunteer Reception Center Support
  • Long-Term Recovery Committee Support
  • Volunteer Base Camp Setup and Operation
  • Public Information Outreach
  • Operations Center Setup and Support
  • Special Needs Assistance
  • Home Construction/Repair
  • Public Facilities Renovation
  • Call Center Support/Setup/Operations
  • Needs Assessment
  • Pet Shelter Operations
  • Preparedness Education

Coordination and Planning

To increase coordination at the federal, state, and local levels, CNCS has worked with the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA on the National Response Framework, created a Disaster Coordinator Cadre of specially trained staff available to go to disaster zones to coordinate national service assets and mission assignments with FEMA, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to enable smarter, faster cooperation with the group's members.

National Service in Action

Through its programs AmeriCorps (State & National, NCCC, and VISTA), Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America, the Corporation for National and Community Service has responded to numerous natural and manmade disasters since 1994. Highlights include:

  • Hours after the nation’s deadliest tornado in 60 years struck Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011, AmeriCorps members arrived on the scene. Since then more than 300 AmeriCorps members have provided vital services including homeowner assistance and casework, removing tons of debris, offering legal services, operating donation and distribution warehouses, and coordinating donations. AmeriCorps members have mobilized or supervised more than 60,000 volunteers who have given 579,000 hours of service and provided disaster assistance to more than 2,000 Joplin households. AmeriCorps was instrumental in mobilizing more than $17.7 million of donated time and resources to support the people of Joplin in their recovery.
  • Following the 2005 Gulf Coast Hurricanes–Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, more than 110,000 participants in CNCS's AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America programs have contributed more than 9.6 million hours to the relief, recovery, and rebuilding effort. They also have coordinated an additional 648,000 community volunteers, a major share of the overall volunteer force. Among other accomplishments, they have assisted 3 million people, completed nearly 55,000 damage assessments, refurbished more than 10,500 homes, constructed 2,000 new homes, served 1.6 million meals, and distributed more than 6,000 tons of food.
  • Record-setting flooding during mid-June 2008 drastically impacted the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City, Iowa, area with damages to some 5,390 houses and 1,049 commercial properties. Working with the Iowa state service commission and local nonprofits, CNCS mobilized hundreds of AmeriCorps members to assist in response and recovery efforts, including assessing damage, mucking out homes, connecting flood victims with resources, and supporting the volunteer reception center that has coordinated more than 7,400 volunteers who have provided 205,000 hours of service.
  • In response to flooding of the Rio Grande River caused by Hurricane Alex in 2010, AmeriCorps NCCC teams helped affected families repair roofs, replace drywall, and paint.
  • Senior Corps members joined with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to help develop Tennessee's bioterrorism plan to provide smallpox inoculations to the state's 5.7 million residents.
  • The Hoopa Tribal Civilian Community Corps (TCCC) worked with other AmeriCorps members to help people in Winona and Fillmore Counties in Minnesota recover from flooding.
  • Partnering with Serve Rhode Island, AmeriCorps NCCC members responded to the March 2010 flooding of the Pawtuxet River, capturing and tracking work requests for clean-up assistance, referring requests to volunteer organizations, and coordinating response organizations and agencies.
  • In 2010, AmeriCorps St. Louis, AmeriCorps NCCC, and Hoopa TCCC members deployed to Ebenezer City, Mississippi, to respond to a nearly mile-wide tornado that tore through 17 counties. The members provided volunteer coordination, removed debris, and conducted home repairs.
  • On April 27, 2011 Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, and Virginia were hit with the deadliest tornadoes in 37 years. National Service participants operated Volunteer Reception Centers and staffed 211 call centers while approximately 150 AmeriCorps NCCC members assisted with debris removal, food distribution, and volunteer coordination.

To learn more about how national service supports communities affected by disasters, or how you may work with us to make communities safer, please contact the CNCS Disaster Services Unit at or visit our website at

February 2012
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