Do you know what to do if a natural disaster hit the area? How prepared are you to help a neighbor after such an event? Would you know where to volunteer time if such a situation came about?

All of these questions, and many more, can be answered at Volunteer Reception Training May 23. The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is partnering with Volunteer Mississippi and Oxford Emergency Management to host the event that is open to anyone in the community. It will be held at the OEM office, located next to the post office and behind the fire station on McElroy Drive, from 8:30 until 11:30 a.m. The main goal is to help prepare local volunteers to accept spontaneous or unaffiliated volunteers that come to help residents after a disaster.

“This is one of those trainings that you hope you never have to actually use,” said RSVP Director Arledia Bennett. “But it is very important that as a community, we have volunteers ready to help process other volunteers that are willing to help.”

OEM Director Jimmy Allgood has hosted the training before and said it was well attended. He is hoping to get out 25 to 30 people for the upcoming class.

“After a disaster, we always get a flood of volunteers that want to come in and help and that’s what this group will do, they will help control those volunteers and track their assignments and hours and make sure they can account for everybody,” Allgood said. “If we can help track them, then we have independent operators out there doing their own thing and we can make the best use of resources coming in. These volunteers are very important to help get them to register.”

Allgood said that RSVP and Volunteer Oxford is “very important” to him and the office overall because they can have all first responders out in the field taking part in the recovery.

“This will be very beneficial from a community standpoint. The first thing is it helps with our tracking of the volunteers and the mission assignments. Also, on the back side, the more volunteers we can track using the volunteer reception training, it helps with our FEMA money. They will actually give us credit for dollars that community spends on recovery money for each volunteer hour that is tracked by the city and county. It helps on the front end but it also helps us on the rear end because FEMA offsets some of the cost to the municipality by giving us credit for those hours worked.”

When the tornado that hit Pine Flat happened, Allgood some 13,000 hours were tracked through the volunteers and those were credited back to the county through FEMA.

“If we’re declared a presidential disaster, FEMA pays 75 percent back to what it costs that county or city. The state pays about 12.5 percent so the city or county is left picking up about 12.5 percent of the cost,” Allgood said. “They will take that 13,000 hours and offset our 12.5 percent match. So, we pay a lower percentage to recover from the disaster.”

For more information or to sign up for this training, please call the RSVP office at 232-2377 or e-mail RSVP at rsvp@oxfordms.net. Lunch will be provided. RSVP is sponsored locally by the City of Oxford/Oxford Park Commission and receives federal funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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