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Experts Teach Workshops on Disaster Response

April 23, 2008 – In preparation for June l, the official date of hurricane season, two experts on disaster response visited the territory to conduct workshops in preparation of the season.
Kimberly J. Burgo Sr., director of the Disaster Response Office of Catholic Charities USA in Virginia, and Gabe Tischler, emergency operations manager of Van Buren County Fire Services in Arkansas, conducted Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) workshops on St. Thomas and St. Croix. The theme of the workshops was "Community Resource Sites: A Collaborate Opportunity for Effective Disaster Response."
VOAD is a group of voluntary public and private organizations whose primary task is to respond to the unmet needs of disaster victims. Alvin Henley, district manager of Catholic Charities Virgin Islands, is also chairman of VOAD's St. Thomas-St. John chapter. Henley says VOAD is called upon when first the responder, Virgin Island Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), cannot adequately address all the needs of disaster victims.
"The workshop was very informative, and the importance of agency collaboration was stressed," he said. "Our getting together helps us to strengthen our partnership relationships and identify our common factors of interest and services we provide to assist the community in times of disasters."
Some of VOAD's local organizations that participated include Dial-A-Ride, Methodist Training Outreach Center, Red Cross, the Department of Housing and the Department of Human Services, to name a few.
The main goal of the workshops was to support local governmental and community-based disaster responders to identify new opportunities, address challenges, and strengthen relationships needed to effectively respond to a disaster situation in the territory. The two disaster response experts also made site visits of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands' soup kitchens and Bethlehem Homeless Shelters on both islands.

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