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COAD clears tornado caseload

Recovery following the April 27, 2011 tornado might be 75 percent complete, but Catoosa Organization Acting in Disaster, the organization formed to help in recovery and to prepare for any similar events, is 100 percent alive and well.

“This is the final meeting of COAD relative to the tornado,” COAD board chairman Phil Ledbetter said last week.

Catoosa Organization Acting in Disaster was born during the predawn hours of a dark stormy night when that tornadic storm left its broad swath of death and destruction across Ringgold.

Formed during dark days immediately after the storm’s dark clouds rolled through, COAD acted as a go-between for those wanting to assist in recovery efforts and those, particularly the uninsured or underinsured, in need.

The all-volunteer organization’s stated mission is “...to enhance the capacity of nonprofit, community and faith-based organizations, government agencies, and the private sector for preparedness, response and recovery to disaster in Catoosa County, Georgia, by facilitating cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration.”

COAD is not an agent for state or federal disaster relief. It works with GEMA and FEMA but has no ties to either of those emergency management agencies. The same is true concerning its interaction with faith-based organizations or entities such as the Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

COAD’s role is to bring organizations like those listed together, helping them work cohesively and stepping in to directly provide help where those groups are unable or unwilling to provide help.

After the tornado, COAD acted as a matchmaker, pairing service providers with survivors of the storm. COAD performed triage, assessing the needs of those survivors to offer the appropriate advice and assistance during recovery.

This work in the local community continued long after national organizations and media attention moved on to the next disaster.

COAD also raised more than $709,000 to fulfill unmet needs in the community. Leveraging that amount to gain grants and financial assistance from foundations and 501(c)(3) organizations allowed COAD to oversee a total of about $1.3 million in rebuilding and recovery efforts within the local community.

COAD had closed the books on case files related to the post-tornado rebuild. When the long-term recovery program closed on Dec. 31, 2012, more than $706,000 had been paid out and the group had a bank balance of about $3,400.

The group will now shift to a standby mode. Its board will continue to meet and expand the existing network of partners dedicated to disaster response, relief and recovery.

Jeanne Abdy, a caseworker and advisor to the COAD board, said the local organization had been “one of the most effective in the nation” in its response to the tornadoes that swept across the nation during the spring of 2011.

“This group cannot go dormant,” she said. “COAD has been trained and needs to be prepared to be fully involved again. Invite everyone and every group that responds to disasters to become involved.”

There when needed

Catoosa Organization Acting in Disaster is a grassroots organization formed to meet the needs of those affected by tornadoes during the spring of 2011. Having worked for more than 18 months to assist the uninsured rebuild their homes and lives, COAD will now focus on readying the community for the next disaster — whatever that might be — when it occurs.

Anyone wanting to find out about or volunteer with COAD should contact the organization by calling 706-935-5018 or 423-935-4470.

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