Reducing Our Risk

Organization: 
City of Arlington Fire Department's Office of Emergency Management

Entry Overview

The news of a city devastated by disaster generally inspires individuals to provide humanitarian aid by volunteering or donating relief items. If the coordination of spontaneous volunteers and donations are not managed efficiently, it may inadvertently cause a cascade effect and become a secondary disaster to the initial disaster.

Mission Arlington is a faith-based charity organization that relieves the City of Arlington Fire Department’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) of donations management in the aftermath of a disaster. All donations are collected and sorted through Mission Arlington and can be deployed at the request of OEM to fulfill unmet needs.

Arlington Christian Disaster Network (ACDN) is a collaborative effort among Arlington faith-based organizations (FBOs) to provide trained volunteers ready to meet the emergency needs of the community. ACDN is responsible for the implementation of the City’s Volunteer Reception Centers (VRCs). Two ACDN facilities are designated as the VRC locations which are operated and staffed by trained ACDN members.

The partnerships with these FBOs allow public safety to focus on priority response and recovery efforts.

General Info
Irish
Hancock
Email : 
irish.hancock@arlingtontx.gov
Organization Address: 
620 W Division Street
Arlington, Texas 76011
United States
Problem
Population Impacted: 
375,600
Hazard: 
Wind
Identify the likelihood and frequency of this hazard : 
Powerful storm fronts move through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex multiple times a year, primarily between March to May and August to October. However, severe thunderstorms can occur at any time of the year. Hazards of a severe thunderstorm may include hail, lightning, wind gusts, or a tornado.
Explain how vulnerable the community is to this hazard: 
Historically, severe thunderstorms have impacted businesses and communities in different areas of the city. The Entertainment District is the most vulnerable area of Arlington due to its major tourist attractions: AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Park in Arlington, Six Flags Over Texas, Hurricane Harbor, and Lincoln Square; a premiere destination for shopping and dining. Extensive damage in that area would significantly impact Arlington’s economy.
List the potential affects of this hazard: 
A severe thunderstorm that produces casualties and/or widespread damage will certainly lead to an abundance of spontaneous volunteers and donations arriving in the city which may divert or overwhelm public safety resources. Consequently, this severely impacts Arlington as it is heavily supported by its entertainment venues, manufacturing industry, and professional services. A slow recovery causes long-term disruption to services which may result in business closures, adversely impacting local economy and tax revenue.
Identify how sensitive the community is to these affects: 
Since Arlington is home of the Globe Life Park in Arlington and the multi-purpose AT&T Stadium, the city has hosted the NFL Super Bowl, two MLB World Series, NCAA Final Four, and the College Football Championship within the past five years. These events substantially impact local business around the Entertainment District and in Arlington. Tourism is a staple in Arlington’s economy throughout the year, and local businesses must strive to continue operations even immediately after a disaster.
Action
Preparedness Goal: 
Training and exercise to ensure the efficient management of spontaneous volunteers and donations in the aftermath of a disaster.
Implementing Actions: 

Forming a partnership between OEM and ACDN involved establishing guidelines. Volunteers are required to complete Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Basic Training; a program managed by Arlington OEM and ACDN. The CERT curriculum ensures all volunteers have a basic understanding of disaster preparedness and response skills.

OEM and ACDN board members meet once a month to discuss upcoming trainings and new ideas to expand and improve the program. To date, ACDN membership includes representation from twelve FBOs. OEM alongside ACDN is able to offer two to three CERT Basic Trainings a year with full rosters of prospective students from those FBOs in ACDN.

OEM and ACDN have since resolved a primary lesson learned from a 2012 tornado that affected 500+ Arlington homes and business. The need for an organized VRC was critical before Arlington experienced its next disaster. ACDN has identified two FBO facilities that are conducive to manage an influx of spontaneous volunteers. Along with OEM, ACDN has exercised the VRC and cross-trained volunteers for the various staffing positions.

Also during the 2012 tornado, there was an obvious need for an entity to manage donated goods. Mission Arlington took full responsibility and allowed OEM to notify media to send all donations to Mission Arlington. Public safety resources were dedicated to priority response while affected communities were able to obtain timely relief items at Mission Arlington leading to an effective recovery process.

Solution
Describe Your Solution: 

Inevitably after a large-scale disaster, a city becomes inundated with spontaneous volunteers and donated goods. The combined efforts of Mission Arlington and ACDN facilitate prompt recovery by assisting with volunteer and donations management.

ACDN’s implementation of the VRC is undeniably relieving for Arlington OEM. This includes registering spontaneous volunteers in an orderly fashion and capturing their skills and qualifications. Volunteers are then given just-in-time training and safety instructions before being deployed to an appropriate volunteer opportunity. Multiple exercises have ensured that the two VRCs are designed to efficiently process a high volume of spontaneous volunteers, and that ACDN volunteers are cross-trained on the different staffing roles. This major undertaking that ACDN has agreed to fulfill will reduce the potential of a secondary disaster to relieve public safety resources for response operations.

Mission Arlington minimizes the cascade effect of a secondary disaster in the same premise but as it relates to donations. Having an independent organization receive donated goods of all kinds and have them sorted and organized takes a tremendous amount of labor off of public safety. As beneficial as this arrangement is to Arlington OEM, it is even more valuable to the communities and businesses affected by severe thunderstorms.

The partnerships are truly a win-win situation for the City as a whole for expediting recovery to pre-disaster conditions.

Results
Economic?: 

With Mission Arlington and ACDN’s assistance, families and businesses are able to recover and return to normalcy quicker. As soon as businesses open and continue operations, tax revenue is being generated and expediting economic recovery. Arlington has built a reputation for quick recovery as demonstrated during the 2012 tornado. On the same day as the tornado, the Texas Rangers were still able to continue their ballgame that night. This can be attributed in part by the relief efforts of Mission Arlington and ACDN. Public safety was able to staff the ballgame while recovery was still being performed by the FBOs.

Environmental?: 

When massive amounts of donations arrive following a disaster, many jurisdictions do not have the manpower to effectively organize and store disaster relief items. Mission Arlington is fortunate to be staffed with compassionate individuals who have a genuine desire to help. Also as a result of their highly trusted reputation from decades of service, they have over one hundred private companies, faith-based organizations, and schools that offer financial contributions allowing them to afford enough storage space for canned goods, clothing, etc. Donations are collected, organized, and stored while the city is not left with unwanted items after the disaster.

Social?: 

Disasters are a time of tragedy, but it does promote camaraderie among the community. Mission Arlington eagerly assists their fellow communities in need. When the outpouring of donations arrives, people want to see that their relief items are being distributed to make a difference.  When the flood of spontaneous volunteers arrives, they want to be utilized in an efficient manner. ACDN’s management of the VRC is the conduit for volunteers to provide that humanitarian relief. OEM can solely focus on post-disaster responsibilities while the VRC is organizing and capturing volunteers’ skills.

What were the negative or unintended impacts (if any) associated with implementing this solution? : 

The main concern is the risk inherent in utilizing volunteers. As with the majority of jurisdictions in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, volunteers are not insured under the City of Arlington. Nevertheless, we still encourage volunteers to participate in diverse training, courses, and exercises to maintain active involvement. ACDN and its members play a crucial role in disaster resiliency in Arlington, therefore we will continue to provide innovative opportunities to utilize their skills.

Replication/Scale
Return on Investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?: 

There are no expenditures associated with the partnerships with Mission Arlington and ACDN aside from staff time. The staff time is mainly spent coordinating trainings, exercises, and meetings to discuss new strategies and preparedness programs. ACDN’s assistance in the CERT program has resulted in a cadre of nearly 200 volunteers. Aside from their role in a VRC, many volunteers come from a variety of public safety backgrounds (fire, police, military, security, etc.) and instruct our monthly Continuing Education offered to those who have completed CERT Basic Training. Topics each month either expand on a CERT module or cover another element associated with preparedness and response. The constant training we offer our volunteers has paid dividends for the City. Volunteers are well-rounded and play an integral role not only in the implementation of the VRC, but they also staff Arlington’s Emergency Operations Center during special events and assist with amateur radio communication. Well-trained volunteers in a variety of response and recovery roles will minimize the effects of any potential hazard.

What are the main factors needed to successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 

The most important factor is the commitment from FBOs and volunteers. It is crucial to have an organization or volunteer body’s full support and genuine desire to help.

FBOs aim to serve communities in times of crisis so it was fitting to collaborate and combine their resources into a structured entity.The founding of ACDN prepared FBOs by giving them clear direction and guidance on how to best utilize their resources in partnership with the City of Arlington.

The CERT program is an excellent tool to garner FBO and volunteer interest. It is a reputable program and can create initial buy-in from potential stakeholders and FBOs. Once an assembly of volunteers has been established, specific training for volunteer and donations management can be implemented.

With demonstrated and continued success, ACDN and Mission Arlington have been written in Arlington’s emergency management plans. This ensures a defined structure and provides guidelines in the event of a disaster.

Contest Info
Contest Name: 
Reducing Our Risk

Contest Partners

Save the Children logo

Contest Sponsors

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