Large-scale disaster planning in the Dallas-Fort Worth area took a big step forward in January when the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation at Communities Foundation of Texas announced a $5 million challenge grant to support a Mass Care Response and Disaster Relief Plan for North Texas.
The funding will support a first-in-the-nation collaboration by the American Red Cross Dallas Area Chapter; the North Texas Food Bank; The Salvation Army, DFW Metroplex Area Command; and the Volunteer Center of North Texas. As the leading mass care responders in the DFW Metroplex, the four agencies have joined forces as a Mass Care Task Force, which has a goal of increasing emergency preparedness from their current ability to shelter and feed 7,800 to being able to accommodate 40,000 individuals.
After Dallas sheltered evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the four nonprofit organizations formed the task force to strengthen their ability to take action in partnership when called upon to respond to a disaster in North Texas or to serve evacuees from a neighboring community. Disasters could include tornadoes, hurricanes, extreme temperatures, a major power failure, earthquake, drought, terrorist attack, or biological, chemical or nuclear attack.
"Dallas gained a lot of experience sheltering evacuees from Katrina, Ike and Gustav, but we had to consider how to prepare if a major disaster happened locally," said Cheryl Sutterfield-Jones, chief executive officer of the Dallas Chapter of the American Red Cross. "The goal of the Mass Care Task Force is to take the lessons we’ve learned and build upon them to enable us to respond to a disaster on a much larger scale. If we wait until a large disaster strikes, it will be too late."
The four organizations have been working together for more than a year to coordinate efforts, assign responsibilities and prepare for the next major disaster. The alliance will enable the needs of victims to be met in the most efficient way by coordinating services, streamlining communications and avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort.
Officials at the Red Cross, North Texas Food Bank, Salvation Army and Volunteer Center said Hurricane Katrina demonstrated the need for greater integration of preparedness efforts with state and local governments and the private and nonprofit sectors.
"When Dallas sheltered evacuees from Katrina in 2005, we had a lot of duplication among agencies. But with Ike in 2008, we