Year after year in the United States, disasters have become increasingly more prevalent. The 2017 hurricane season was the most disastrous in our nation’s history, affecting 8% of the U.S. population (25 million people). Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supported 59 major disaster declarations and 16 emergency declarations for 17 named storms.
We have learned a few important lessons that it is now time to apply:
1.) FEMA has limits. Disaster preparedness, response and recovery are responsibilities that we all share. The nation currently does not have a true culture of preparedness for future disasters. That must change.
2.) FEMA and communities lacked situational awareness of critical commodities that resided in their own backyards and surrounding communities.
3.) Private sector companies and philanthropic organizations did not know where to donate or what was needed by impacted communities.
A positive, strong lesson learned, however, is that Americans are resilient. There has been strong support from the private sector, specifically our community-based and faith-based organizations. Disaster response and emergency management are not only the responsibility of government but also every community. As FEMA Administrator, Brock Long, explains “Everyone – whether you are a public servant, a member of a family, or a business that is part of a community – must work together to make this happen, FEMA alone cannot accomplish these goals.”
One organization in particular that has answered the Administrator’s call for action is the Disaster Service Corp (DSC) at St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP). DSC is the perfect example of private sector leadership, serving and leveraging the power of Americanism and faith to approach communities impacted by disaster with compassion and competence. The Disaster Services Corporation (DSC) is a Catholic lay organization that helps people in situational poverty as a result of natural and man-made disasters get their lives back in order.
DSC has several high-impact disaster programs, one of which is their Disaster Case Management Program. DSC is recognized as a leader in disaster case management training, practice, and compliance. Kevin Smith, the Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, highlights the valuable work of DSC in a recent statement: “There are many resources that are available to help disaster survivors stand back up after a disaster impacts their lives. However, navigating the processes involved in leveraging those resources is often complicated. When organizations like St. Vincent De Paul come along to hold survivors’ hands through these processes, the survivor truly benefits and their recovery is expedited.”
Mr. Smith is not the only one that shares this sentiment. In 2016, I had the unique opportunity to work with DSC's CEO, Elizabeth Disco-Shearer, and West Virginia Voluntary Organization’s Active in Disaster’s Executive Director, Jenny Gannaway. Together we coordinated one of the largest economic recovery summits in West Virginia’s history, joined by the then soon-to-be FEMA Administrator, Brock Long. The summit brought together national and local subject-matter experts who discussed solutions and concepts for the long-term recovery efforts following the epic floods of 2016.
Over the past 12 years, I have had the privilege of serving communities impacted by disaster. Serving not only helps rebuild communities, it restores my own emotional and spiritual well-being and reinforces my call to serve with my strong faith. Our need to help is innate and universal. That is why I serve with the Disaster Services Corporation (DSC) SVDP-USA. Please consider donating to the important work of DSC so they can continue to combat the aftermath of devastating disasters with service and faith! Donate by visiting https://www.svdpdisaster.org.
About the Author
Mr. Kevin M. Peach is a management consultant with over ten years of experience in emergency management and public health. Mr. Peach has been recognized for his ability to effectively lead programs that address preparedness, protection, security, response, recovery, and mitigation. Having served in numerous capacities for various local, state, and federal agencies, Mr. Peach possesses extensive and diverse professional experience managing government organizations, which includes writing grants and winning federal and private funding for complex disaster projects and emergency management programs.
Specifically, Mr. Peach has experience with the formulation and development of policies addressing the mobilization of resources during emergencies, public health crises, the preparation of emergency plans, and the coordination of emergency operations. Mr. Peach has served as a strategic advisor to the White House, National Security Council, FEMA, CDC, and a variety of states and local governments with an emergency management emphasis. He regularly advises municipal, regional, state, and federal officials as well as corporate executives on emergency management and public health issues and funding strategies.
Mr. Peach has composed Congressional testimony for the Assistant Administrator of Recovery for FEMA, asked to contribute to the evaluation of the National Health Security Strategy (NHSS), and advised the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force chaired by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which coordinated the federal investment of $60 billion passed by Congress.
Mr. Peach possesses comprehensive knowledge of the principles, practices, and organizations that affect public health, preparedness, emergency management, and private sector activities in the United States. He has a proven ability to exercise leadership and manage a diverse and complex organization to protect the Nation from all hazards, including natural disasters, public health crises, terrorism, and other man-made disasters through a risk-based, comprehensive emergency management system of preparedness, protection, security, response, recovery, and mitigation.
Connect with Kevin Peach here: http://bit.ly/2OawMk2