Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Black Hawk County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD)

The Black Hawk County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) serves the entirety of Black Hawk County by providing a place to bring together voluntary agencies, businesses, and governmental agencies to foster a more effective preparedness, response and recovery to the people of Black Hawk County including the municipalities, as needed, in time of disaster through:

  • Cooperation: creating a climate of cooperation, information sharing, and meeting together.
  • Coordination: encouraging common understanding and providing a liaison with city-county government officials as well as resource management with the community.
  • Communications: publishing and disseminating information.
  • Preparedness: increasing mutual awareness and encouraging effective disaster relief and procedures.

One main component of the COAD and utilization of services during times of disaster and disaster recovery is the Volunteer Reception Center (VRC). The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley plays a large role in the implementation of the VRC upon activation from the Black Hawk County Emergency Management Coordinator.

A VRC is a one-stop shop for volunteers to register and be placed with volunteer assignments to assist during these times of disasters. The main goal is to have volunteers accounted for and hours served tracked. This is important during disasters as volunteer hours can be counted towards matching dollars to receive disaster recovery dollars from the state and federal governments.

A VRC might become activated to assist with sandbag efforts or tornado debris pick-up, but it can also be utilized to assist with searching for missing persons, too.

Once activated, the VRC begins set-up at a variety of pre-determined and partnered locations (depending on the type of disaster and the availability of locations). As volunteers arrive in the intake area, contact information will be taken during a brief interview process, each volunteer will receive a scan-able bracelet; which will track volunteer from check-in to check-out; a quick training will occur, and volunteers will be loaded onto provided transportation to be delivered to various points in the community to provide assistance.

Upon completion of service, a volunteer will be loaded back on transportation and will be scanned out of the system.

Part of the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley’s mission is to assist with the coordination of community partnerships and the Black Hawk County COAD and the VRC are just that – a huge partnership. 

For more information on the Black Hawk County COAD or to learn more about becoming part of the VRC team, contact the VCCV at information@vccv.org or (319) 272-2087.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Make a Disaster Plan for Your Pets

How to keep pets safe in natural disasters and everyday emergencies

Start getting ready now - ID your pet

Make sure that cats and dogs are wearing collars and identification tags that are up to date. You'll increase your chances of being reunited with pets who get lost by having them microchipped; make sure the microchip registration is in your name. But remember: The average citizen who finds your pet won't be able to scan for a chip, but they will probably be able to read a basic tag!

Put your cell phone number on your pet's tag. It may also be a good idea to include the phone number of a friend or relative outside your immediate area—in case you have had to evacuate.

Put together your disaster kit
Use our checklist to assemble an emergency kit for yourself and your pet.

Find a safe place to stay ahead of time
Never assume that you will be allowed to bring your pet to an emergency shelter. Before a disaster hits, call your local office of emergency management to see if you will be allowed to evacuate with your pets and verify that there will be shelters in your area that take people and their pets.

Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to find out if they accept pets. Ask about any restrictions on number, size, and species. Inquire if a "no pet" policy would be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of animal-friendly places handy, and call ahead for a reservation as soon as you think you might have to leave your home.
For help identifying pet-friendly lodgings, check out these websites:

Make arrangements with friends or relatives. Ask people outside your immediate area if they would be able to shelter you and your pets—or just your pets—if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to arrange to house them at separate locations.

Consider a kennel or veterinarian's office. Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinary offices that might be able to shelter animals in disaster emergencies (make sure to include their 24-hour telephone numbers).

Check with your local animal shelter. Some shelters may be able to provide foster care or shelter for pets in an emergency. But keep in mind that shelters have limited resources and are likely to be stretched during a local emergency.

Plan for your pet in case you're not home
In case you're away during a disaster or evacuation order, make arrangements well in advance for someone you trust to take your pets and meet you at a specified location. Be sure the person is comfortable with your pets and your pets are familiar with them. Give your emergency caretaker a key to your home and show them where your pets are likely to be (especially if they hide when they're nervous) and where your disaster supplies are kept.

If you have a pet-sitter, they may be able to help. Discuss the possibility well in advance.

If you evacuate, take your pet!
1.  If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your pets. You have no way of knowing how long you'll be kept out of the area, and you may not be able—or allowed—to go back for your pets. Pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost or killed.
Pledge to take your pet with you when disaster strikes.

2.  Evacuate early. Don't wait for a mandatory evacuation order. Some people who have waited to be evacuated by emergency officials have been told to leave their pets behind. The smell of smoke or the sound of high winds or thunder may make your pet more fearful and difficult to load into a crate or carrier. Evacuating before conditions become severe will keep everyone safer and make the process less stressful.

If you stay home, do it safely
If your family and pets must wait out a storm or other disaster at home, identify a safe area of your home where you can all stay together.
  • Close off or eliminate unsafe nooks and crannies where frightened cats may try to hide.
  • Move dangerous items such as tools or toxic products that have been stored in the area.
  • Bring your pets indoors as soon as local authorities say trouble is on the way. Keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers, and make sure they are wearing identification.
  • If you have a room you can designate as a "safe room," put your emergency supplies in that room in advance, including your pet's crate and supplies. Have any medications and a supply of pet food and water inside watertight containers, along with your other emergency supplies. If there is an open fireplace, vent, pet door or similar opening in the house, close it off with plastic sheeting and strong tape.
  • Listen to the radio periodically and don't come out until you know it's safe.
After the disaster
Your home may be a very different place after the emergency is over, and it may be hard for your pets to adjust.
  • Don't allow your pets to roam loose. Familiar landmarks and smells might be gone, and your pet will probably be disoriented. Pets can easily get lost in such situations.
  • While you assess the damage, keep dogs on leashes and cats in carriers inside the house. If your house is damaged, your pets could escape.
  • Be patient with your pets after a disaster. Try to get them back into their normal routines as soon as possible. Be ready for behavioral problems caused by the stress of the situation. If these problems persist, or if your pet seems to be having any health problems, talk to your veterinarian.
  • If your community has been flooded, check your home and yard for wild animals who may have sought refuge there. Wildlife can pose a threat to you and your pet. Check out our tips for humanely evicting wildlife.
Be ready for everyday emergencies
You can't get home to your pet
There may be times that you can't get home to take care of your pets. Icy roads may trap you at the office overnight, an accident may send you to the hospital—things happen. But you can make sure your pets get the care they need by making arrangements now:
  • Find a trusted neighbor, friend or family member and give him or her a key. Make sure this backup caretaker is comfortable and familiar with your pets (and vice versa).
  • Make sure your backup caretaker knows your pets' feeding and medication schedule, whereabouts and habits.
  • If you use a pet-sitting service, find out in advance if they will be able to help in case of an emergency.
High temperatures can be dangerous. Learn more about hot weather safety for pets.

The electricity goes out
If you're forced to leave your home because you've lost electricity, take your pets with you to a pet-friendly hotel. If it's summer, even just an hour or two in the sweltering heat can be dangerous. If you stay at home during a summer power outage, ask your local emergency management office if there are pet-friendly cooling centers in the area.

If it's winter, don't be fooled by your pets' fur coats; it isn't safe to leave them in an unheated house.

Thanks to the Humane Society of the United States

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Top 15 Things to Know When Managing Volunteers in Times of Disaster

This list is for agencies that do not typically handle volunteer management activities, but that may find themselves in such a situation in response to a disaster.

1. Meet Basic Volunteer Needs: Make sure volunteers have access to food, water, and restrooms. Remind volunteers to take breaks to eat, hydrate and call family. Many times, adrenaline will take over in disaster situations and volunteers may need to be reminded to take care of themselves and their families. Ensure that standards of health and hygiene are maintained during long shifts and in any public facility. Arrange for sufficient supplies to sustain these standards.

2. Orient and Train Volunteers: Be sure to take time to orient and train the volunteers to both their position duties and roles and to the situation. Volunteers could be in situations in which they may view and/or experience traumatic situations. Volunteers must be oriented not only to their tasks but also to potentially negative experiences. During particularly active periods, the volunteer leader should give frequent updates to keep all volunteers informed of the most current situations.

3. Inform Volunteers of Logistics: Communicate important logistics to volunteers prior to their shift. In addition to directions and shift times, volunteers may need to bring photo ID, gear, and protective clothing.

4. Develop Position Descriptions: Create a position description for each volunteer activity. Keep it short and simple. Be sure that everyone has a position description regardless of the position they fill. Post these positions in a prominent place and provide a copy to each volunteer to set clear expectations for volunteers. Don’t forget to create position descriptions for volunteer leaders, those volunteers who can take leadership roles and monitor process, as well as complete tasks on an ongoing basis.

5. Identify and Schedule Shifts: Identify and schedule appropriate shifts for each position. Note: It is the effective practice to identify shifts in two- to four-hour increments. Be mindful of volunteers’ needs: To prevent burn-out and fatigue, you should strongly discourage volunteers from filling more than two consecutive shifts. Also, make sure you have at least one volunteer leader (clearly identified) scheduled in each shift.

6. Plan for Knowledge: Transfer Every position description should include an end-of-shift debrief/orientation process whereby the volunteer leaving his or her shift should communicate important information to the incoming volunteer (i.e., what is working well and what is not working, etc.). Volunteer leaders during each shift should ensure that this transfer of knowledge occurs in a timely and clear fashion.

7. Protect Your Volunteers: Make sure your volunteers are only engaged in work in which they are trained. If the scope of work changes, training should be provided to support the development of necessary skills and knowledge. Volunteers should be properly identified for ease of recognition by the public and by each other. Make sure that each has the equipment and tools needed to do his or her job.

8. Protect Your Agency and Be Proactive about Risk: Check with your insurance agent to be sure your agency is fully covered during periods of emergency. You may want to consider adding a rider to your policy. Be sure to have volunteers sign in and out of their shift. Make sure volunteers sign waiver and liability forms as well as any other organizational documentation. Document the orientation and training are given to each volunteer. Ensuring the safety of life and property is critical. By reviewing the volunteer activities for possible hazards and educating volunteers about safety, you will reduce the chance of someone getting hurt. Keep a first aid kit and automated external defibrillators (AED’s) on hand if possible.

9. Provide Ongoing Support: Monitor and support volunteer activities. Thank volunteers for giving their time. If you see volunteers who seem tired and worn out, encourage them to take a break. Remember that disasters may take a heavy toll on the physical and emotional well-being of volunteers and staff alike. Provide resources to volunteers to help take care of their health, such as access to mental health practitioners.

10. Identify Volunteer Leaders: Always make sure you are identifying those volunteers who have the skill set and the drive to manage tasks, processes, and other volunteers. You cannot be everywhere all the time. Therefore, you should leverage the talents of your volunteers and create a communication system whereby you can delegate tasks.

11. Create a Call List: Exchange cell phone numbers with all key contacts and update it regularly. You may also want to secure walkie-talkies for quick communication. Set up redundancies in communications in case cell phones are ineffective. Some suggestions of numbers to have on your call list include, but are not limited to, the following:
· Emergency contacts
· Volunteer Leader contacts
· Volunteer Reception Center contacts
· Disaster response organization contacts
· Contacts for organizations that accept donations
· Media relations contacts
· Mental health service contacts

12. Recognize Volunteers: Volunteers should be thanked continually. You may not get a chance to formally thank your volunteers until after the disaster response is over so take every chance you get to remind the volunteers that you appreciate them and their efforts to respond to the disaster. After the disaster response efforts have subsided, you can plan a more formal way to recognize them (examples include recognition event, formal email or letter, phone call, etc.).

13. Establish and Maintain Standards of Conduct: Instill pride in performance but don’t hesitate to correct behavior that is counter-productive or even injurious to the good name of your agency or the best interests of the public. On rare occasions, it might even be necessary to relieve a volunteer of duty. Ensure at the outset that all your volunteers know their terms of service. Keep handy a printed copy of your Volunteer Policy Manual.

14. Conduct an Event Debriefing: Plan for a debriefing for all staff and volunteers at the conclusion of each shift, as well as the end of the disaster operation. Acknowledge the many positives and identify lessons learned that can be addressed for future disasters. Capture recommendations in your After-Action Report for future reference and development of next steps for your program. Follow through on the key steps.

15. Evaluate Your Efforts: Always be mindful of organizational reporting requirements and develop processes to capture appropriate data. Tracking volunteer data in times of disaster may assist jurisdictions with in-kind matches for federal reimbursement. Capturing data is also important to tell your story to future funders, to your community, and to your volunteers. Ideas for types of data to capture could include:
· Number of volunteer hours
· Number of volunteers
· Number of meals served
· Number of houses built
· Number of families or people served
· Number of agencies served

For complete details on volunteering, contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at (319) 272-2087, information@vccv.org, or visit www.vccv.org.

Thanks to HandsOn Network

Monday, February 26, 2018

Volunteering Your Professional Skills

Whether you are a competent cook, a brilliant book-keeper, a fun-loving fundraiser or a diligent director you have skills your community needs.

Skilled/Pro Bono volunteering
Most volunteering requires some kind of skill. Even sorting donated clothing requires some reading and critical thinking skills. Bagging rice requires scooping and pouring skills.

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Skilled or pro bono volunteering refers to companies and individuals volunteering their professional skills to assist nonprofit organizations in creating or improving their business practices.

Professionals engage the community with diverse and unique skills
While most volunteering requires skill, it's important to highlight opportunities for professionals to lend their specialized skills to the community through volunteering.

Also, "skills" are not only practicing law, medicine, business, technology, and construction. The spectrum of skills includes interpersonal skills like employing empathy and patience, public speaking, mediating conflicts; and creative skills like crafting and theater.

So, while one volunteer might have significant accounting experience, another may be adept at taking large, complex problems and breaking them down into concrete, tangible steps.

Both volunteers have invaluable skills to contribute.
Examples of skilled volunteering:

  • A hospice volunteer took the many thank-you cards received from grateful families of former patients and compiled them into a creative and heartfelt scrapbook. The scrapbook now resides in the hospice's waiting room where families of current patients — as well as staff and volunteers — can find comfort, and experience connection, with others who understand what they are going through.
  • A new volunteer for an organization that builds affordable housing came in wanting to help with construction and, during his interview, the volunteer resource manager learned that he had experience garnered from a 25+ year career in urban planning. While the volunteer wasn't interested in volunteering around the planning aspects of affordable housing (now in his retirement, he was seeking new projects to try), he was up for providing advice from time to time. In the end, both parties were happy: the organization had access to his expertise on an ad hoc advisory basis, and he spent most of his volunteer time on doing hands-on construction on a worksheet.

Assessing your skills
As you prepare to look for your ideal volunteer opportunity, take a few minutes to assess your skills.

  •              What are you good at?
  •              What comes easily to you?
  •              What aspects of your professional life might be assets to an organization or community effort?
  •              What personal or interpersonal talents do you have? 

To help you with this exercise, consider going through the following (although by no means complete!) list of potential skills and abilities: Accounting, Cosmetology, Cooking/Nutrition, Electrical, Engineering, Financial Planning, Graphic Design, Health/Medical, Journalism, Legal/Law, Library Science, Marketing/Public Relations, Masonry, Photography, Plumbing, Research, Sales/Retail, Social Media/ Networking, Software Development, Teaching, and/or Web Development.

Once you've got a good working list of your own skills and abilities, think about how you might want to contribute them.

  • Are there certain things you're good at but just not interested in doing as a volunteer? For example, you might spend your days developing and managing websites, but would rather do something entirely different as a volunteer.
  • Conversely, are there certain skills you'd love to develop and are seeking a volunteer position that will help you do just that?

For complete details on this opportunity, contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at (319) 272-2087, information@vccv.org, or visit www.vccv.org.

Monday, February 19, 2018

4 Ways to Volunteer Inside During the Winter Months

With winter here, you might be thinking about how to take your volunteering to a warmer, cozier location. As temperatures drop and frost or snow covers the ground, outdoor projects become less feasible, giving way to a new crop of volunteering options that you can do from the comfort of your own home.

1. Make hats and blankets to donate
Help others stay warm this winter by gathering some fleece, wool or yarn, and putting it to good use! Make a fleece blanket and donate it to help warm a child in need. Or, break out your knitting needles and make a hat or baby blanket.

2. Write and send greeting cards
Sending greeting cards is not just for the holidays! Write cards for Operation Gratitude to send in care packages to deployed troops, new recruits, and veterans. Brighten a hospitalized child's day with a personal note or card. Want to double your good deed? Check out Greet for Good, a database of organizations that sell greeting cards benefitting the organizations or causes you care about.

3. Throw a party to fundraise for your favorite cause
Fundraising parties aren’t just for politicians and actors. You can throw a party in your house to raise money for a cause you are passionate about. Get your friends and family to help – invite your neighbors and coworkers to attend as well.

4. Help out seniors in your neighborhood
Cold weather, ice, and snow can present some challenges for the elderly. Help a neighbor winterize their home to protect against winter’s chill. You could also help someone do their grocery shopping, bring over a fresh, home-cooked meal, or offer to pitch in with household chores.

For complete details on various volunteer opportunities, contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at (319) 272-2087, information@vccv.org, or visit www.vccv.org.
Thanks to the Points of Light Foundation.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley Accepting Nominations for Volunteer Awards!

​The Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley is accepting nominations now through Friday, March 16th for the 2018 Mayors’ Volunteer Awards and Top Teen Awards. The awards recognize individuals who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to service through volunteerism in the Cedar Valley.

The Mayors’ Volunteer Awards honor the exemplary contributions of individuals ages 19 and older who dedicate their time and talent to volunteerism in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Evansdale and surrounding communities in Black Hawk County.

The Mayors’ Top Teen Awards honor youth ages 13-18 attending a school in Black Hawk County. The Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa also selects one junior from each of the accredited high schools in Black Hawk County to receive the $1000 Mother Moon Service Scholarship.

All nominees and recipients will be recognized at special events on May 1. More details to follow. 

Nomination forms are below, available online at www.vccv.org, or may be requested by emailing information@vccv.org.

The awards program is sponsored by the cities of Cedar Falls, Evansdale and Waterloo, the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber Ambassadors, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, the RJ McElroy Trust and the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley.

Nomination Form

Monday, January 29, 2018

Volunteer Your Way to the Top: The Power of Pro Bono

Since your childhood years, you’ve known the importance of volunteering: you’ll help others, you can give back to your community, and you will make a positive contribution to the world.

All of these reasons are absolutely true, but let me add one more to the list: you can help your career—in a big way. Whether you’re searching for work, looking to take on new responsibilities at your current job, or trying to expand your network, volunteering can be an important (and fun!) way to reach your goals. Here’s how lending a hand to others can be helpful for you, too:
Learn About Yourself
Many individuals began volunteering at a young age and found that being surrounded by and working with a wide range of professionals helped them gain a sense of what they wanted for the future. Working in a variety of different settings can help expose you to new options and prepare you for those all-so-important career decisions you make in college or when you decide to change careers.
Gain Skills and Confidence
Want to learn how to develop a marketing plan, or get hands-on experience with graphic design? If you’re looking to grow in your current position or change careers, volunteering can provide an opportunity to learn new professional skills in a safe setting (that’s grateful for even non-expert help!). You can ask questions, test your knowledge, and expand your skill set —all while avoiding the critical eye of your boss.
Boost Your Resume
Getting a job right now is difficult for anyone—but particularly for recent grads with no real-world work experience or those who’ve been out of a job for a while. Volunteering is one way to fill that gap on your resume, boosting your chances of getting an interview (and eventually the job). Working with leaders of volunteer organizations can also help you score good references and letters of recommendation—other valuable tools in your job search.
Moving to a new city right out of college can be overwhelming. A great way to make connections is to immediately start volunteering. One can meet great people that way—some for many years, and they can become your best support systems. When you suffer a job loss, they may be the ones who recommended you to several open opportunities.
Sure, you’re giving to an organization by volunteering, but you never know when you might need it to give a little back. If you’ve built a positive relationship with the people you volunteer with, they won’t hesitate to help.
Stay Active
At some point, you may face a time when you’re not working—you’ve been laid off, quit a job, or moved to a new city, for example. Whatever the reason, when you have some free time, keeping active helps prevent you from getting bored or going stir-crazy. Plus, volunteering can fill the “I’m-not-working” void and give you an answer to the sometimes-awkward question, “So, what do you do?”

For complete details on these types of opportunities, contact the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley at (319) 272-2087, information@vccv.org, or visit www.vccv.org. Go out and volunteer! It helps society, but don’t forget that it helps you and your career, too.

Thank you, Ashley Cobert, from “The Muse”.