Partnering Power Facilitates Disaster Preparedness For Galveston County Non-Profit Agencies

GALVESTON, TX– The Galveston County Mutual Assistance Partnership (GC-MAP) in conjunction with the United Way Galveston County Mainland (UWGCM) is pleased to announce the successful completion of a collaborative pilot project that provided assistance to area non-profits in developing disaster plan checklists and preparedness processes. The checklists are divided into three categories: What to do before, during, and after a catastrophic event. They are designed primarily for use in case of a hurricane but can be applied to any natural or man-made disaster situation.

GC-MAP Executive Director, Rob Ruffner, contacted the Chairperson of the Galveston County Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), Nancy Lee Peterson. Ms. Peterson, who is also a Red Cross Volunteer, had developed a disaster preparedness checklist templates based on Red Cross criteria. The checklist was modified for specific use by non-profits and designed so that it could be customized to meet its specific needs of each organization. Ms. Peterson noted that previous attempts at roll-out were hampered by the lack of available personnel that could be dedicated to complete the forms at the non-profit and the Red Cross did not have the volunteers available to assist them.

Working with student volunteers from UTMB’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, (PMCH) and several members of GC-MAP the pilot was initiated. The PMCH Master of Public Health Program (MPH) requires a community project as part of the curriculum. Executive Director Ruffner discussed the proposed project with Dr. Christine Arcari, Director of the Public Health Program, who was very supportive and was then referred to Dr. Catherine Cooksley.   As the faculty member in charge of that part of the MPH curriculum,  Dr. Cooksley posted the project proposal for her students to consider.   Esther Robbins, MPH student, requested to be assigned to the project.

A presentation of the proposed project was given by Nancy Peterson and Esther Robbins at a luncheon sponsored by GC-MAP and UWGCM for area non-profits.   Fourteen (14) agencies signed up to participate after the lunch and an additional organization signed up later. The process is very interactive and required each agency to be visited by a volunteer to perform a site assessment and to review and assist with the checklists. A daunting task for just one person, Esther, a medical student at UTMB, recruited 35 other medical students to volunteer their time to work with the agencies. The students were paired up into teams of two and assigned to an agency. The five students who were not assigned to a specific organization were used as “back-ups”.

The project resulted in twelve of the agencies getting updated checklists with three agencies, for various reasons, not being able to finish the project this year. In discussions with PMCH, GC-MAP is encouraged that this will become an annual project and the feedback from the medical students was also very positive with several of them indicating that they would like to participate again.

“This is exactly what GC-MAP’s mission is – to act as the “thread” that brings various ideas and resources together for the benefit of the greater community”, said Rob Ruffner, Executive Director GC-MAP. “In this instance we had GC-MAP, UWGCM, VOAD/Red Cross and two departments at UTMB – PMCH and School of Medicine – working together to provide a much needed service to a number of local non-profits. Providing them with an essential resource they didn’t have the capacity to provide for themselves”.

GCMAP is a growing collective of community leaders and nonprofit member agencies that have recognized the need for strong partnerships and collaborative strategies to ensure successful outcomes for a healthier Galveston County community. GCMAP works to support, connect, and strengthen the non-profit agencies in the Galveston County area. GCMAP assists by helping to identify and address the mutual concerns and issues of the nonprofit sector; leveraging opportunities of utilize economies of scale.

GC-MAP is funded by a grant from the Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund. This year, in addition to continued funding from the Kempner Fund, GC-MAP also received a grant from the Moody Foundation.