With Hurricane Florence at the east coast’s door, it’s a good time to be thinking disaster preparedness. Renée Cooper tells us what steps the City of Bismarck is taking to make sure we are prepared for the next natural disaster.
At the City Commission meeting Tuesday evening, they passed a request for the city to partner with RSVP,
an organization that will better organize North Dakota volunteers in the event of any emergency.
Bismarck Emergency Manager Gary Stockert hearkens back to the floods of 2011.
He says, “We actually were responding and fighting that flood for a period of three months.”
He adds, the flood required 5-10,000 volunteers just in Burleigh County.
Stockert explains, “Most of us think of the first responders as fire, police and ambulance. The reality is that in most disaster situations, the very first responders are the citizens.”
With the new partnership, the responsibility of recruiting and enrolling volunteers, and handling reimbursements for the city, will fall under new management.
RSVP’s Western North Dakota Coordinator Mary Siverson says, “They can come to us and say we need 15 volunteers a week from Thursday to do X, Y and Z.”
RSVP is located at Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. The social services organization was given a federal grant in October of 2017 to sponsor RSVP’s efforts. They will be signing the agreement along with RSVP and the City of Bismarck.
Stockert explains, “So what we’re looking at with this agreement is to reach to RSVP to get their assistance, to help us register and manage all of those unaffiliated, spontaneous volunteers, which are very helpful folks. We need them.”
Unlike most other states, the grant is open to any city in North Dakota interested in partnering with RSVP.
Siverson adds, “We cover border to border in the state of North Dakota.”
The coordinator says the last thing a city wants to do is underutilize an eager volunteer.
The whole idea behind this partnership is to make the city’s use of time more efficient in an emergency. Instead, it leaves time for them to focus on strategic planning, rather than having to manage needed volunteers as well.