New group in Houston coordinates relief in case of disaster

awoolen@macon.comJuly 3, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- If a major disaster strikes, Houston County wants to be ready to respond.

Houston County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster coordinates varying types of relief organizations and individuals to provide support to the community in the case of a catastrophe.

The organization collects data from groups already in place such as the American Red Cross, Knights of Columbus Second Responders and other faith-based organizations.

The information is used to coordinate the efforts of all local responders to help the recovery effort.

“It is important to get a clearinghouse to make sure people are qualified,” said Joseph T. Molyson, a retired educator and colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

He will head up the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster locally to assist fire Chief Jimmy Williams, Houston County’s Emergency Management Agency director. The idea for the group started a year ago.

Molyson said he has studied the effects of disasters such as Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast and the tornados in Alabama.

Towns hit by a disaster can be unrecognizable, even to people who live there, he said. Something as simple as having a compass could be helpful.

If there are trees down, the group will be able to call a chainsaw brigade to clear the area. All skill levels will be needed when a disaster strikes, from processing people into shelters to cooking meals.

“You don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Molyson said.

The key is to have the organizations ready if a coordinated effort is needed.

“We’re managing response and recovery instead of it being independent and spontaneous,” Williams said.

He used an example of mobilizing a group to a particular neighborhood to check on homes and damages instead of having four different independent groups trying to do the same thing in the same area.

“This is really just a coordinated effort to manage volunteer response groups that are already there, so recovery would occur sooner,” said Williams.

The Houston County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster is part of a larger Georgia group that works with the national organization to respond to disasters.

The local chapter will have a meeting in August for those interested in being a part of the organization. Details about the meeting are still being finalized. “We are not trying to replace any program,” Molyson said. “We are trying to coordinate all of these different entities.”

For more information about the program, email Molyson at jmolyson@hotmail.com.

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