On Friday, May 20th my colleague, Lise Hildebrandt, and I had the opportunity to participate in a disaster training exercise that was held in partnership with Boulder County agencies, the City of Boulder, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management and the Boulder Incident Management Team. The exercise involved more than 25 agencies and more than 300 participants who tested all elements of a wildland fire incident from initial response to mass care management. Our role was to help in staffing the Departmental Operations Center for volunteer and donations management and assist in providing leadership for that team. During the exercise, several scenarios were presented to us and we had the opportunity to test our messaging and our plans to see if they were sufficient to respond to the needs that arose. It was a valuable experience to be placed in an environment that simulated the activity and chaos that can come during a disaster and to know that it was a safe environment to test our ideas, identify gaps in the plan and learn from our mistakes.
Since the flood, we have been building on the relationships we established and lessons learned to develop an effective plan for engaging volunteers during a disaster and to more effectively collaborate with our partners in various sectors across the community. I have had the privilege to serve as the Chair of the Boulder County VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) since last fall. This network of local nonprofits, city and county partners, faith communities and community residents/advocates was born out of the flood and our goal is to create a strong partnership between these various entities so that when disaster strikes, we can work closely together to meet our communities’ needs more effectively and efficiently.
The exercise on Friday was definite confirmation that our hard work and planning is paying off and the relationships we have formed with VOAD are invaluable in our efforts.