Preparing Communities, Responding to Disasters

Natural disasters affect millions of families every year, putting their homes and lives at risk. Their often unpredictable nature can leave communities off-guard and stress the support networks of families and first responders.

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) believes disaster preparedness and response is critical to our national security, and that volunteers can support the work of first responders and speed recovery for those affected.

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CNCS recruits and trains volunteers to help communities prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from natural and man-made disasters. Our programs and volunteers have helped millions of Americans prepare for, and recover from, disasters since 1994.

CNCS, through the Disaster Services Unit (DSU), supports community-based nonprofits, educational institutions, faith-based organizations, and other groups by coordinating volunteers, serving meals and collecting food donations, conducting damage assessments, making home repairs, cleaning up environmental areas, removing debris, and connecting victims to social services.

The DSU has agency-wide responsibility for coordination of CNCS disaster services activities. The DSU provides expertise, ongoing support, and access to a network of dedicated volunteers. CNCS believes that all disasters are local. Our focus is on enhancing and adding value to what already exists in communities and infrastructure -- working in partnership with State Service Commissions, local government, nonprofits, and faith-based organizations. As a part of the expanded mandate of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act and the agency’s 2010-2015 Satrategic Plan, we have placed a greater emphasis on building the capacity of national service network organizations while also helping localities prepare, respond, recover and mitigate disaster, and increase community resiliency.

Investment and Impact

  • In 2011, 2,530 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps volunteers mobilized to assist communities affected by disasters across the country.
  • In Joplin, MO, more than 350 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members have coordinated more than 76,000 volunteers, resulting in more than 520,000 hours of community service.
  • » Since 2000, AmeriCorps NCCC members have provided more than 3.6 million disaster service hours, coordinated 280,000 volunteers, refurbished more than 16,000 homes, and served 3.6 million meals.
  • » In 2011, FEMA obligated more than $800,000 funds in Mission Assignments to CNCS to deploy more than 500 national service members to support communities affected by disasters.

CNCS Programs Play a Vital Role in Disaster Response:

AmeriCorps members provide:
• Volunteer Base Camp Setup and Operation Operations Center Setup and Support
• Volunteer Coordination
• Debris Removal
• Warehouse Management
• Volunteer Base Camp Setup and Operation
• Case Management
• Disaster Recovery Center Support

Senior Corps members provide:
• Special Needs Assistance
• Call Center Support/Setup/Operations
• Shelter Operations
• Public Information Outreach
• Needs Assessment
• Long-Term Recovery Committee Support
• Pet Evacuations and Animal Care

These efforts, in collaboration with our partners and programs, will enable CNS to reach the objectives in our Strategic Plan in order to increase the preparedness of states and communities that CNCS programs and members support; and increase the assistance CNCS provides to help states and communities increase their readiness to respond, recover from disasters, and mitigate future disasters.

We are increasing coordination at the Federal, State and Local Levels:

  • We work with the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA on the National Response Framework and National Disaster Recovery Framework.
  • We have implemented a CNCS Disaster Coordinator Cadre of specially trained staff available to deploy to disaster zones to coordinate national service assets and mission assignments with FEMA.
  • We entered into agreements with several national and federal partners including: the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (to enable smarter, faster cooperation with the group’s members) and the National Response Team (to provide efficient mechanisms for volunteer coordination).
  • We provide technical expertise and coordinate trainings and webinars for our state, local, and nonprofit partners.
  • We joined with FEMA to launch FEMA Corps, a new 1,600 member unit within AmeriCorps NCCC, whose members will be devoted solely to disaster response and recovery efforts.

National Service In Action:

  • Following the Gulf Coast Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, more than 110,000 CNCS members contributed 9.6+ million service hours to assist 3 million residents; complete nearly 55,000 damage assessments; refurbish more than 10,500 homes; construct 2,000 new homes; serve 1.6 million meals; distribute more than 6,000 tons of food; and coordinate 648,000 community volunteers.
  • In the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, CNCS’ partnership with the Gulf Region State Service Commissions provided more than 5,000 volunteers who monitored shore cleanup and conducted case management.
  • Senior Corps members joined with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to help develop Tennessee’s bioterrorism plan which provided smallpox inoculations to the state’s 5.7 million residents.
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