Williamson County Emergency Management Agency Seeks Organizations to Help With Disaster Relief

Williamson County EMA
photo from Williamson County EMA

The Williamson County Emergency Management Agency is looking for member organizations to be part of a new Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (Williamson VOAD) group and participate in planning for and responding to future disasters that affect the county.

The new Williamson County VOAD will be a coalition of independent Williamson County, TN community organizations, including faith-based, nonprofit, volunteer and government agencies, that may be active in various phases of disaster. The VOAD’s mission is to provide knowledge and resources in a coordinated and efficient manner throughout the disaster cycle – preparation, mitigation, response and recovery – specifically to help disaster survivors in communities across Williamson County, TN.

Williamson County VOAD aims to bring together volunteer groups to assist residents and businesses in the event of a disaster, fill in the gaps that government can’t address, help quickly tend to imminent needs, and support long-term recovery after a disaster.
Disasters are on the rise in Tennessee, with 11 active disasters currently ongoing. While Williamson County is only included in two of these events, the community is experiencing an increase in severe weather events that cause significant damage but do not qualify for federal assistance.

“Williamson Countians have always shown themselves to be collaborative and cooperative in times of need, and the Williamson County VOAD is being established for just that reason,” said Todd Horton, Director of Williamson County’s Emergency Management Agency. “Williamson County has many valuable agencies, non-profits, churches, businesses and citizens. The VOAD is a way to coordinate their efforts for the greater good.”

Williamson County VOAD will collaborate with the Williamson County Emergency Management Agency (WCEMA) on planning to ensure a coordinated response that is in line with WCEMA’s Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) expectations.

“In addition to our county’s professional emergency management agency, our experience tells us that we need a cohesive structure of volunteer, nonprofit and corporate organizations to join the VOAD so we can better provide assistance as the need arises,” Horton says. “We realize that it is not a matter of IF a disaster will happen, but when it will happen. We want to ensure residents that we are taking active steps to be prepared for the next crisis event.”

Williamson County also has established the Williamson County Disaster Response Fund in partnership with the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. During times of disaster, unsolicited donations, while well-intentioned, often create a disaster within a disaster, slowing recovery efforts because of the commitment level required to deal with unneeded items. The best way for relief organizations to address community needs is by providing them with the financial means to buy the right supplies at the right time, and to buy them locally if possible. This fund will provide support to relief organizations who are active in assisting those impacted across Williamson County.

The VOAD is not meant for individual volunteers. Residents who want to help in times of crisis can volunteer through some of the VOAD organizations. VOAD membership is open to any agency or organization within Williamson County with a role to play in any phase of emergency management. The Williamson County VOAD has three tiers of membership:
Full Members are 501(c)(3) organizations with a disaster response program and policy for commitment of resources (included but not limited to personnel, funds, equipment, supplies) to meet the needs of people anywhere in Williamson County affected by disaster without discrimination.

Affiliate Members are any organization within Williamson County with disaster planning and operations responsibilities or capabilities (including, but not limited to, government agencies, faith and spiritual communities, and nonprofits without 501(c)(3) exemption) but do not meet the requirements for full membership and/or do not have the capacity to be engaged on a regular basis.

Corporate Partners are any business within Williamson County with a willingness to engage and support the VOAD’s preparedness and response activities. The goal is to rally and coordinate, while avoiding duplication of services, the existing network of resources in Williamson County that can be requested through VOAD to include everything from but not limited to food, water, clothing, emergency supplies, construction and clean-up labor to donations management and mental health crisis counseling. The VOAD group will convene throughout the year to organize and plan the deployment of community resources in an efficient and timely manner.

Interested groups can complete the VOAD Membership Form and access a commitment letter at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BTYPBH5 To learn more, visit https://www.tnvoad.org/williamson-county-voad/

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