Learning more about VOAD

A meeting was held on Tuesday night at the Bolar Ruritan Club to explore the idea of creating a VOAD for Bath and Highland Counties.  VOAD is Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and it organizes volunteer help in advance to be ready when needed in disaster response.

Wayne Sink spoke at the meeting.  He is from Roanoke, Virginia and is the President of Southwest VOAD Region 6.  He is also involved with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, a disaster relief organization that’s a member of Southwest VOAD.

“I think it’s just good that the community here has seen the need and that they are willing and able and ready to develop a plan that will help the citizens of this area,” says Sink.

Sink said it’s up to Bath and Highland emergency services officials to decide what they want to do in terms of creating a VOAD and how they want to do it.  He stressed that it’s important to get organized ahead of time and know which volunteers can offer what services when something happens.

“I think the primary thing is to build a network of people that you can depend on to help supplement and augment your first responders and emergency personnel,” says Sink.  “During times of disaster they’re swamped, they’re covered up.  If we can take some of the less important tasks from them by using volunteers then it helps them out, it helps the community and I think it helps the volunteers too.”

Volunteers can assist in many ways during a disaster such as clearing roads and checking on those who may need special assistance, such as the elderly or those with disabilities.

It was stressed that people are not being asked to do more to help during a disaster, but just to report how they are helping so there aren’t redundant efforts.  For example, Bath County sends out deputies to check on people and many times find that someone has already been there to check in on them.  In addition, it would also be helpful for emergency services to have a core group of volunteers to depend on, and use as needed, because it could take twenty four to forty eight hours following a disaster for help to arrive from other areas.

“I think the next step is to get the group together as was discussed tonight,” says Sink.  “Have another meeting.  Find out who’s interested, what kind of resources they can bring to the table to help out and start developing a plan that can be given to the emergency operations center so that those people will know who’s available and who they can call on to perform certain tasks.”

This meeting was described as being a first step.  Those in attendance were asked to help Bath and Highland officials identify others that could be part of the organization of a VOAD.

Sink has been involved in VOAD for about six years and says he’s gotten a lot out of the experience.

“I think just the ability to know that you’re helping someone,” says Sink.  “Trying to put yourself in their position.  I’ve often said that it’s not really what I’m doing.  If that person calls hopefully I can go, because hopefully if the table is reversed they will come and help me.”

For more information on VOAD contact Harold King, co-chairman of the Bath Local Emergency Planning Committee, at 540-925-2275.

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Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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