Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hailey Recovers Team has its first assignment

Idea is to match volunteers and those in need

Express Staff Writer

    Earlier this summer, Hailey Fire Chief Mike Chapman presented the Hailey City Council with the idea of setting up an online platform to connect people in the event of an emergency or a disaster.
    Through the Hailey Volunteer Firefighters Association, Chapman had already registered the city and paid the nominal one-year membership fee to, a national software platform set up two years ago by two 20-something sisters from Massachusetts.
    The council applauded Chapman’s idea and approved the initiative on a trial basis, Hailey City Clerk Mary Cone recalled Tuesday. Following the approval, city officials posted flyers stating that Hailey City Hall was looking for citizen volunteers to assist with disaster and/or emergency operations when needed.
    This week the newly formed Hailey Recovers Team, through its website swung into action for the first time to provide additional resources for people affected by the Beaver Creek Fire.
    As the fire crisis has developed, the website has had about 150 responses on the site, most of those to volunteer some kind of assistance, along with many fewer responses from those actually in need, Cone said.
    “It’s our first experience with this,” said Hailey Public Library Assistant Librarian Nancy Gurney.
    Gurney is assigned to monitor the site and its responses along with Head Librarian LeAnn Gelskey and Fire Chief Chapman himself. All are trained in the proper methods to connect people and services, mindful at all times of privacy issues and concerns.
    “We now have a list of volunteers signed up. We want to build our data base to use if needed in the future,” said Gurney.
    She added that she and the other Hailey Recovers Team monitors are serving as links to connect volunteers and needy people anonymously.
    So far, volunteers have offered things like pet care, trucks and transportation, debris removal, senior citizen services, spare bedrooms and temporary housing, and financial and legal services.
    Upon accessing the site, visitors are asked to click on one or more of these links: “I Have a Need,” “I Want to Give,” and/or “I Want to Volunteer.”
    Gelskey said she is working to match donations received through with local organizations like The Hunger Coalition and the American Red Cross that are serving residents in need.
    Once the immediate crisis subsides, the Hailey Recovers Team plans to assess the strengths and weaknesses of new system and make any changes and improvements for the future, said Gurney.
    Impetus for came from Morgan O’Neill, 26, and her sister Caitria O’Neill, 22. They were affected on June 1, 2011 when a devastating tornado smashed into their hometown of Monson, Mass.
    Witnessing the recovery effort first hand, they felt an online platform was needed to ease the recovery burden. They put their career plans on hold and started working on what they called a community-powered tool kit that empowers communities to prepare together, mitigate risk and match local resources with needs.
    As they said, 50 percent of web searches occur in the first seven days after a disaster, so it’s necessary to set up systems ahead of time—indeed, what they call “recovery in a box.”

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