On April 28 and 29, 2007, New York City’s Citizen Corps Council hosted the first ever NYC Disaster Volunteer Conference at St. Francis College in Brooklyn to train volunteer leaders to guide their communities during emergencies. Over 200 volunteer leaders from numerous organizations attended workshops and networked with peers. “The Council hoped volunteers would use this opportunity to enlarge their networks and gain a better understanding of their roles in a disaster and the roles of others,” explained Herman Schaffer, Chair of the NYC Citizen Corps Council.
On the 28th, the conference began with a breakfast and opening remarks by OEM Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno. OEM coordinates NYC Citizen Corps Council activities in the city and provides year-round staff support. On the 29th, Angela Heim, of National Citizen Corps, opened the day by sharing examples of successful initiatives in other Councils and encouraging volunteers to bring the preparedness message to local communities. On both days, Ken Curtin, volunteer liaison for FEMA region 2, delivered the keynote address on the disaster life cycle to frame the day’s upcoming activities.
Volunteers broke into four groups and attended their choice of workshops which were designed to make them more effective leaders during every phase of the disaster cycle.
In the workshops:
New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS), the American Red Cross (ARC), and the Consortium for Haitian Empowerment led a workshop about identifying and incorporating local resources and building community consensus.
The Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities, the Department for the Aging, the Center for Independence of the Disabled, and OEM taught volunteer leaders methods for reaching out to and including special needs populations in community emergency planning.
OEM, in conjunction with Neighborhood Housing Services of NYC, Community Emergency Response Teams, Medical Reserve Corps, Safe Horizon, NYDIS, and ARC, explained the anatomy of response and recovery and helped leaders identify how they fit into the process.
New York Cares and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene trained volunteers in leadership, management, and self-care; all of which are crucial to help them endure the hardships inherent to emergency response and recovery.
Schaffer closed the conference to resounding applause, saying “My hope is that if something happens and you meet each other at the scene of a disaster, you will be familiar with each others strengths and come together into a cohesive volunteer recovery team.”