Hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck,St. Vincent de Paul — USA Disaster Services Corporation was one of the faith-based organizations that deployed to help
people in the impacted areas. They set up Parish Recovery Assistance Centers
(P-RACs) in the disaster zones and staffed them with volunteers.

“We have
deployed volunteers from all over the United States, called Rapid Response
Teams, to provide support to our St. Vincent de Paul Councils in Texas and in
parts of Florida that are in disaster zones,” said
Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, CEO of St. Vincent de Paul — USA Disaster
Services Corporation.

“Because of
the size and magnitude of Harvey and Irma, we needed training on an
industrial-scale process, tools and consistent methodology,” she said. She knew
about the expertise of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) in training on incident command, disaster preparation
and disaster response, so she contacted Dan Buchanan with the ESTI Preparedness
Program at TEEX for some just-in-time, customized training.

In just a
few days, Buchanan tailored a training program for volunteers who would be
staffing the P-RACS across Texas. The goal was to help the groups get organized
and build an incident action plan specific for the Texas deployment, and then
to train the volunteers on how to use and apply the plan, Buchanan said.

Within two
weeks of Harvey’s landfall in Houston, 30 to 40 volunteers had been trained and
deployed throughout the areas in Texas impacted by storm, from the Corpus
Christi area to the Houston-Galveston area and over to the Beaumont area.

“We used the
Incident Command model and structure and standardized forms,” Disco-Shearer
said. “Each night, the P-RAC leader sent a situation report (SIT REP),
including data from the day, so I could assess the needs and issues.”

Less than
two weeks later, the group was moving to Florida after Hurricane Irma made
landfall. Disco-Shearer called on 
Buchanan again to offer the training for 60 — 70
volunteers in Fort Myers, Fla., as teams arrived and fanned out to P-RACS in
the hardest hit areas.

“They had a
need and we were able to step up and help out,” 
Buchanan said.

“I’m very
excited about this partnership,” said Disco-Shearer. “TEEX has the expertise, and
we have the volunteers, so together we are better able to deliver services to
survivors across the U.S.

“I’m so
grateful to TEEX. We couldn’t have effectively delivered services on this
magnitude without the training. We will continue to partner with TEEX in the
future when we set up these assistance centers.”

“Our goal is
to bring ICS tools into areas where they can be useful,” 
Buchanan said. The ESTI-Preparedness
Program had previously conducted emergency preparedness training and a hurricane
tabletop exercise for The Archdiocese in Galveston-Houston, which covers 10
counties. “There are many faith-based organizations that respond to disasters,
and we can help them with their emergency preparedness and response efforts,” he added.

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