Smart Investment: Disaster Response

Valley donors are investing time and funding in disaster preparation

In an emergency, you know to call 911 for help.

But what do you do during and after a disaster?

Fire and police departments have protocols on how to respond in a disaster. With so many disasters, it's becoming increasingly important to have a disaster response protocol. Preparation is key, says Scott Andrews, Seymour Ambulance Association's Executive Director.

Last summer, Seymour Ambulance Association organized the area's first mass casualty incident training of its scope in 30 years including Seymour's fire and police departments as well as departments from Ansonia, Oxford and Beacon Falls.

Since the Newtown shootings and Boston Marathon bombing, Seymour has "been aggressively training and rethinking how to respond to mass casualty incidents" Andrews says. "If such a tragic incident should occur, this training will better prepare us for more positive outcomes," he says.

There are several local and area organizations that help people through a disaster. Often times the Red Cross is called in first.
"We work on a great scale of need: everything from a single-family house fire to Superstorm Sandy," says Paul Shipman, the Chief Communications Officer for the Red Cross of Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The response could involve something as simple as providing on-site snacks to something as costly as putting up families in a hotel and providing victims with gift cards to buy items that meet their immediate needs, such as diapers, clothing or prescription medicine. "It's designed to get people through the first few days," Shipman says. After that, the Red Cross connects people with local service providers based on their needs.

In the case of the Jan. 6 fire in Shelton that meant most fire victims were connected to TEAM Inc., which helped find replacement clothing, furniture and apartments and funding to cover security deposits for those new apartments. Depending on the scope or nature of the disaster, other organizations might have been tapped for assistance.

To help TEAM cover those unexpected costs, the Valley United Way, Katharine Matthies Foundation and the Valley Community Foundation made grants to the organization.

Often times, dealing with the economic and emotional fallout from a disaster lasts significantly longer than the disaster itself.
More than a year after Superstorm Sandy, the Salvation Army's long-term case managers are still supporting storm victims whose homes were damaged, says Brenda Downing, the Salvation Army's Director of Social Services for Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Long-term case managers, Downing says, are available to help local victims of major disasters deal with the stress, emotional and financial burdens caused by disasters.

Community foundations and other philanthropic organizations across the state and nationally are discussing how to collaboratively use philanthropy to efficiently and effectively help individuals, organizations and communities deal with disasters.

"We know that the government process may cause delays in aid to disaster victims, and local philanthropic institutions familiar with the community can respond quickly in times of need," says Valley Community Foundation CEO & President, Sharon Closius.

Valley United Way CEO & President Jack Walsh says there is also talk of creating a formalized local nonprofit response to disasters. "The Valley is better positioned than a lot of communities because we have networks that work and we can respond quickly because we all communicate," says Walsh.

A local response plan to disasters could be modelled on the reaction to the Jan. 6 fire in Shelton, Walsh says, where volunteer firefighters, the Red Cross, TEAM and philanthropy all came together seamlessly to help.

What You Can Do:

Volunteer with or donate to area nonprofits that respond to disasters.

Be prepared!
Discuss a plan with your family on what to do in a disaster.

Call us to learn more about how to use your philanthropy to support disaster and emergency recovery efforts in the Valley.

With the help of our donors, Valley Community Foundation grants support:

  • comprehensive emergency services provided by the Salvation Army
  • Emergency Services Week and an emergency response training by the Seymour Ambulance Association
  • TEAM, Inc. in providing case management and rehousing assistance to the victims of the Jan. 6 Shelton fire
  • the replacement purchase of a state-of-the-art Cardiac Monitor Defibrillator for the Valley Emergency Medical Services