Send your assistance through agencies
Call 211 in Mahoning and Columbiana; (800) 427-3606 in Trumbull.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Local emergency management officials are asking people who want to help Hurricane Katrina victims to work through the relief system that is in place rather than freelancing and possibly adding to the problem.
Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull county commissioners have endorsed the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a system through which businesses, faith-based and other organizations, and individuals can best support recovery operations for Gulf Coast communities, said Walter Duzzny, director of the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency.
No matter how well-meaning, unless people or groups are in contact with specific individuals or organizations and have been invited to the disaster scene, they should channel their efforts through EMAC.
Their help will get where it is needed more quickly that way. People who just show up down there will most likely be told to go home, Duzzny said.
EMAC is a mutual-aid agreement among states that was created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Under EMAC, states in need send requests to other states, such as Ohio, which in turn check their database of available services, skills, goods and equipment. If there is a match of needs to resources, the resources are deployed. EMAC was implemented during local flooding and proved to be effective, Duzzny said.
Locally, individuals and organizations that want to help with goods and services can call toll free 211, Help Hotline's information line in Mahoning and Columbiana counties; and (800) 427-3606 for Trumbull County residents.
Use of the 211 number avoids overloading the 911 number, which is for emergencies.
Officials urged anyone in the tri-county area to call the toll-free numbers and respond to a questionnaire that will ask what help one is capable of providing, in what quantities and when it would be available.
It will then be screened and forwarded to the state assessment center in Columbus for use when states in need request help.
Also, Duzzny urged that people who want to give money for the relief efforts do so through national organizations such as the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army.
In a related matter, Austintown Fire Chief Andrew Frost said firefighters who want to help should do so through the Ohio Fire Chiefs Emergency Response Plan.
Frost said the plan was created because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks after people went to New York City and were turned away. To date in Ohio, Frost said some 50 firefighters from the Cincinnati area have been deployed to Mississippi to fill in for firefighters there who are working on disaster recovery.
"We are on top of things. We'll be ready with personnel and equipment when they are requested," Frost said.