The Woodward News

April 22, 2012

Plans under way to build long-term recovery group

Johnny McMahan
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Rescue and starting the recovery process are likely the only things you really have time to think about in the early stages of a disaster such as April 15 Woodward tornado.

But what about the long-term recovery of the people who were directly impacted by the devastation?

That's where Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) comes into play.

VOAD members help organize long-term recovery groups that will be needed long after the first few days or even weeks of a disaster situation.

"We are still involved in 4 long-term recovery efforts from last year's 2011 tornadoes (in Oklahoma)," said Richard Norman, the vice-chair of Oklahoma VOAD partners.

VOAD involves a number of partners like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Relief, Catholic Charities and more along with state and local government agencies in putting together a long-term plan.

Norman said the goal of long-term recovery groups is to meet any unmet needs and help people get to their "new normal."

"Life is never normal after these events," Norman said. "The goal is to get to the level of somewhat of a semblance before the disaster."

VOAD held a preliminary meeting last Thursday and another organizational meeting is coming up Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church. Around 50 people representing churches, businesses, disaster relief organizations and government agencies were on hand for the initial meeting.

In those meetings, the various groups will begin to build a community recovery process, helping tornado survivors work through grief and develop a recovery plan "to help people take control of their lives and give them hope," Norman said. "Long term help changes people from disaster victims to disaster survivors."

Norman said a rule of 10 is typically used in disaster situations.

For instance, the rescue effort in Woodward was about a 2-day time frame, meaning the relief phase will last 10 times that or 20 days. Next up is the recovery phase, or the need to put things in place to support the unmet needs that still exist, which will last around 200 days.

"We find that this is pretty accurate in many cases, but the main concern for the length is to make sure it is as long as it takes to meet the unmet needs of victims," Norman said.

Norman said all decisions in a long-term recovery group are made at the local level.

As the group begins to organize, Norman pointed out VOAD partners are available to put some things in progress and fill the gap between emergency case work and case management.

The emergency case work is basically what is going on with the Red Cross MARC or Multi-Agency Resource Center set up at the First Baptist Church. Several agencies are involved in the MARC.

From there, case management will eventually be determined by the long-term recovery group.

Note: The Multi-Agency Resource Center or MARC is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.