Allamakee County Emergency Management works with AmeriCorps to develop list of volunteers for emergency response duties

Floods, tornadoes, derecho winds; these are just some of the potential disasters seen throughout the state of Iowa in the past few years, and Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker has to be prepared to deal with those hazards should they strike at the local level.  Now an even more deadly threat confronts the residents of Allamakee County: the virulent COVID-19 pandemic that has caused the death of dozens of residents and sickened hundreds.

That is why Snitker is seeking volunteers to help in disaster preparedness and response to cope with the wide array of natural and man-made disasters that could beset the communities and people of the county. He is being assisted in this recruitment project by AmeriCorps Northeast Iowa RSVP 55+ Initiative in recruiting and matching volunteers’ skills and abilities with the tasks that may be called on to perform in time of emergency.

“Volunteers provide a huge resource for emergency response at the local level as they aid in response and recovery within their own communities, augmenting the limited personnel normally available to deal with disasters,” said Snitker. “Having a pool of volunteers, we can reach out to when needed will provide a valuable resource as we move forward in our county’s disaster preparedness.”

In his role as Emergency Management Coordinator, Snitker is charged with the planning and readiness of the county’s response plans to disasters and other hazards. From his county office located at the Public Safety Center located north of Waukon on Highway 9, he coordinates and integrates the actions that local, county and state organizations and agencies conduct to address and mitigate the dangers, damages and injuries those disasters and hazards may cause within Allamakee County.

The County’s emergency response operations are authorized by the Allamakee Emergency Management Commission, an agency mandated by the State of Iowa. That Commission consists of a representative from the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors, the County Sheriff, and the mayors of each of the towns within the county. The Emergency Management Agency serves as the coordination point for a broader response when disaster strikes.

Snitker’s duties include hazard identification, and assessment of risk, damage and response capability assessments. He coordinates allocation of outside disaster resources and works with local responders on disaster operations, communications and public information. In the chaos and mayhem of a major disaster, those many responsibilities could easily overwhelm County administrators, officials and emergency responders. A core group of prepared and reliable volunteers could make a real difference in the effectiveness of a community’s disaster response.

Preparation and training are essential and while it is impossible to plan for all disaster scenarios, the most likely hazards can be evaluated and prioritized. Those greatest potential risks can be the topics for tabletop exercises and live action drills that are conducted by the various emergency response officials of city, county school district, and state offices and agencies - and by informed and trained volunteers that assist those agencies in their emergency operations.

“Volunteers play a very important role in supporting disaster preparedness and response,” said Deana Hageman, Northeast Iowa RSVP Director for AmeriCorps. She noted that RSVP volunteer duties in times of emergency response range from Volunteer Reception Center assistance, communications, resource distribution, housing assistance, and other services depending on their skills and training while other volunteers may provide logistics, resource distribution, medical and health care services, transportation, or search and rescue operations.

“The best time to get involved is now so you can get information, train and prepare,” Hageman said. “So when a disaster situation strikes, volunteers are able to respond immediately, and crucial time is not spent on training and instructing.”

AmeriCorps Seniors Northeast Iowa RSVP volunteers choose how, where and when they want to serve, with commitments ranging from a few hours per month to a few hours per week. There are opportunities to serve with dozens of local organizations that depend on the AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP program for volunteers’ assistance, and RSVP volunteers often report that their service is one of the most rewarding aspects of their lives.

To learn how to volunteer with AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP, visit the website of the local office: www.decorah.lib.ia.us/rsvp/join-nei-rsvp-2 or call 563-277-5181.  Those who are not 55 years old and are interested in volunteering should feel free to contact Allamakee County Emergency Management Coordinator Corey Snitker at 563-568-4233 or email csnitker@co.allamakee.ia.us for more information.

“When disaster strikes anywhere, we have always seen volunteers step up to assist those in need,” Snitker said. “With a local volunteer pool at the ready, Allamakee County will be that much better prepared to meet whatever challenges come our way.”

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