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Volunteer NH (VNH) is an integral part of the State Emergency Operation Plan works closely with NH Homeland Security & Emergency Management to coordinate several disaster relief and response programs. During an emergency event, Volunteer NH works with the state in support of NH residents faced with long-term recovery challenges and has a critical role in providing support for volunteers and donations management. VNH is an important state resource tasked with connecting volunteer resources to disaster relief initiatives. VNH also assists the NH Department of Health and Human Services Emergency Services Unit in promoting the NH Community Emergency Response Team, NH Medical Reserve Corps and NH Disaster Animal Response Team programs to identify ways that National Service and state volunteer resources can play a role before, during, and after emergencies.
I can think of no better example of this civic engagement than during the 2017 Food Drive for Puerto Rico. Once again, we showed the nation just how much the Granite State can accomplish when we come together as a community. Through the leadership of Volunteer NH and the service of the State Employee volunteers along with AmeriCorps members, the victims of Hurricane Maria were given help that they urgently needed.
How to Volunteer for Disaster Services
There are two primary ways you can volunteer to help before, during, and after emergencies across the State of New Hampshire.
Visit the NH Responds website
NH Responds is part of a federal effort to coordinate and assemble volunteers for all types of emergencies. In order to provide New Hampshire citizens a timely and effective disaster or community response, volunteers need to be organized, verified, and ready to mobilize. Whether you are a healthcare provider, administrative specialist, a retired professional – anyone ready to help in your community – New Hampshire needs you. NH Responds is a great way to get involved in many of the disaster volunteer teams across the state including:
- Medical Reserve Corps (MRC)
- Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT)
- NH Disaster Animal Response Team (NHDART)
- Disaster Behavioral Health Response Team (DBHRT)
- New Hampshire Metropolitan Medical Reserve System Task Force 1 (NH MMRS)
- Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP)
Ready Corps is comprised of AmeriCorps members and staff who are trained so that they can be called upon during local, regional, and statewide emergencies. All of New Hampshire’s Ready Corps members receive basic emergency operations training and attend the American Red Cross Shelter Fundamentals course.
Visit the National VOAD website
Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD)
Immediately following a disaster, a community can become easily overwhelmed by the amount of generous people who want to help. Contacting and affiliating with an established organization will help to ensure that you are appropriately trained and supported to respond in the most effective way.
The impulse to help when others who are suffering is commendable. However, volunteering inside a disaster area can be dangerous, stressful work in extreme environments. If you’d like to volunteer to assist those affected by disaster, VOAD organizations have specific disaster roles and are the best place to start.
VOAD organizations represent a diverse group of highly-competent organizations that provide a wide range of skills in service to our communities. All organizations have service-oriented missions and include volunteer engagement as a key component of their operations. These VOAD organizations are coordinated through the NH Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NH VOAD). Our dynamic combination of faith-based, community-based, and other nonprofit, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) represents thousands of volunteers with unique skills and a resourceful spirit. From the American Red Cross to the United Way, many groups across the State accept volunteers to help build resilient communities and respond to disasters. Each VOAD organization has a different application process so it is best to reach out individually to learn more.
Be sure to affiliate with existing voluntary organization before coming to the disaster area, and that organization has been asked to respond. Wait until it is safe to travel to volunteer sites and opportunities have been identified. Once assigned a position, make sure you have been given an assignment and are wearing proper safety gear for the task.
Be patient. Recovery lasts a lot longer than the media attention. There will be volunteer needs for many months, often years, after the disaster – especially when the community enters the long-term recovery period.