July, 2010The Mass Care Task Force, a disaster preparedness group in North Texas, announces the publishing of its first annual State of Mass Care Preparedness Report. The task force is a collaboration of The American Red Cross Dallas-Area Chapter, The Salvation Army DFW Metroplex Command, the North Texas Food Bank, and the Volunteer Center of North Texas. In their first published annual report, the group rates its own level of readiness at 26% on a scale of 100, a cumulative score based on the group’s ability to provide immediate food, shelter, volunteers, communication and management to up to 37,500 people in the wake of a catastrophic event.
With the formation of the task force in 2006, North Texas was positioned to become better prepared for a disaster than most areas in America. This unique project was fueled by a $5 million challenge grant from the W. W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation at Communities Foundation of Texas in 2008. The partnership has recently announced a major sponsorship commitment from Southwest Airlines, which pledged $300,000 cash and $45,000 in airline tickets and cargo space provision. Additionally, the Hobiltzelle Foundation has committed $500,000 over four years beginning in 2011. The total cost of the effort is $26 million to provide of food, shelter and humanitarian services to 37,500 disaster victims over a 10-day period. If a major disaster hit the region today, the task force would only be able to independently assist 8,000 victims during the first ten days. The group is calling for community support in the form of volunteers and donations in order to reach full capacity.
“This collective community goal will give Dallas the distinction of being a leader with such a comprehensive plan.” The Mayor added, “No other city in the nation has created a proactive collaborative force prepared to respond to a large-scale disaster with efficient, coordinated, multi-faceted assistance programs and services.”
The Need for Collaboration
With four major hurricane strikes in the region in the past five years, North Texas is well aware of the need to provide high levels of disaster relief. Hurricane Katrina spurred the formation of the task force. DFW leaders realized the region needed a more efficient plan for responding to tornadoes, storms, floods, and other catastrophes. Averages of 168 tornadoes churn through Texas every year. One tornado could create an immediate need for food, shelter and humanitarian relief for as many as 37,500 people.
Most cities have a variety of disaster relief organizations that operate independently. The Mass Care Task Force is unique in its collaborative design. It has raised the bar by developing its own readiness standards. The group has solicited input from a panel of national disaster response experts and holds regular disaster simulation exercises to improve its plans and policies.
The task force is clear about the type of event that will require a mass care response. The event must impact two or more municipalities in the five counties of North Texas, and the scope of need must be greater than any single member agency can address alone. Local media must position the event as a lead story two or more times in a 24-hour period or there must be national media coverage.
Five Critical Care Areas
The task force has highlighted five critical mass care areas necessary for comprehensive relief: provision of shelter, provision of food, volunteer recruitment, communication and overall leadership and management. In its annual report, the group rated its level of readiness in each of these areas and then calculated a cumulative readiness score. The group is most prepared in the area of leadership and management, a critical element in a collaborative effort.
The group has given itself a preparedness rating of 62% in the leadership and management area. This includes the ability to identify personnel, acquire resources, create a collaborative response plan and work with national organizations. The task force has created formal policies and procedures to guide decision making and operations. The CEO and COO of each organization make up the task force’s leadership team.
The second highest readiness rating of the five mass care areas is provision of shelter at 32%. Readiness to provide food is rated at 25%. Communications readiness is currently at 21% and preparedness to gather and organize volunteers is 13%.
“At Southwest Airlines, we strongly believe that we have to prepare in the good times for the inevitable bad times,” stated Gary Kelly, Southwest Airlines' Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO. “So it makes sense for people, organizations, and leaders in local government and business community to work together for a common goal—to better prepare for and respond to any potential disasters here in North Texas. We are proud to join with the Mass Care Task Force to be part of this planning and preparedness.”
Corporation and Foundation Support Invaluable
There has been a lot of support for the creation of the task force, but there is still a great need for additional contributions to make this project a success. The $5 million Caruth Foundation grant helped start the project. The grant will serve as a lead challenge grant, to be matched dollar-for-dollar, to support the $26.7 million project. The recent pledge by Southwest Airlines to give $300,000 in cash and $45,000 in the form of plane tickets and cargo space set the stage for additional corporate giving. The task force will continue resourcing the project though formal partnerships with their national organizations and by soliciting private and corporate donations. In addition to financial support, some organizations will be asked to provide in-kind support and volunteers.
Need for Greater Community Support
“The Mass Care Task Force sets Dallas-Fort Worth apart in our readiness to meet basic human needs in times of major disaster. The group is a model collaboration that has clearly defined the processes and infrastructure necessary to respond effectively in a crisis. Now, we are counting on support from other foundations and individuals throughout North Texas to join us in enabling the Task Force to complete its work for the sake of everyone in this region,” said Brent Christopher President and Chief Executive Officer of Communities Foundation of Texas.
Community members can make a great impact by assisting in the region’s disaster preparedness. Interested participants can contact the Mass Care Task Force at 214-794-4942 for more information about how they can become involved or how their company, neighborhood or organization can participate. Participants can sign up to be a pre-identified disaster volunteer and recruit others to join you (email www.vcnt.org). They can arrange for the task force to coach them or their company on their personal or corporate disaster response plan. Finally, anyone can make a personal or corporate financial donation to the task force so that the costs at the time of the disaster are lower. The task force hopes that by working together, the community can minimize the effects of a natural or man-made disaster and make North Texas the nation’s standard of excellence for disaster preparedness.
Since its founding in 1953, Communities Foundation of Texas has grown along with North Texas to become one of the nation’s largest community foundations. Through its work, the foundation enhances the experience and impact of charitable giving. It serves as a hub for collaboration between donors, nonprofits and other funding organizations to stimulate creative solutions to key community challenges. This is accomplished through a variety of donor-advised, designated and discretionary funds. CFT strives to thoughtfully and effectively support its diverse donors and grantees by providing exemplary service, by demonstrating accountability, and by generating lasting impact in the community. The foundation professionally manages almost 900 component funds and has awarded over $1 billion in charitable grants.