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CNCS Disaster Services and the Japan Disaster

by Kelly DeGraff

In recent days, the scale and magnitude of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan have emerged through video footage connecting us to the horrific details and aching loss in the aftermath of one of nature’s most violent furies. Early video showed a wall of water sweeping away everything in its path--vehicles, buildings, even fires were escorted by the force of the water.

We’ve seen pictures of tremendous cracks in the ground that grow and seep out water, and photos of covered bodies waiting to be claimed along with what seems like an endless wall of names of those who lay in one of the many makeshift morgues. We’ve also seen small glimmers of hope like the 60-year-old man being rescued after spending several days hanging on to the roof of his submerged house.

Reports indicate that more than 350,000 people are homeless, some living in shelters, all awaiting news of friends and relatives who remain missing. The enormity of this situation will continue to be reveled as weeks turn into months; I hope we never tire of looking at the photos and feeling the palpable desire to offer assistance.

It is my privilege to work in the field of Disaster Services where humanity joins together and action is quick and nimble and rooted in knowledge and experience. Though I focus on domestic situations, there is an understanding that an event as catastrophic as this has not escaped our shorelines or the boundaries of our states. It has penetrated our hearts.

CNCS has several partners that focus on international disasters including American Red Cross, Hands on Network, Save the Children, and many others who have responded fully and continue to provide much-needed resources and relief to the people of Japan. We are thankful for their tireless efforts in assisting during this crisis.

Domestically, CNCS and our affiliate partners have been responding to tsunami-related wave surges and storms on the Pacific coastline.

  • The American Red Cross has been supporting evacuation centers in California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.
  • The Washington State Commission has been actively engaged with all the coastal communities in Washington State, some of which have been on red alert and evacuated as a precaution. The Washington Citizen Corps has been in communication with local emergency management personal who cover vulnerable regions.
  • California Conservation Corps has been monitoring the situation and has been in close communication with the US Coast Guard.
  • A Pacific Region AmeriCorps NCCC team has been deployed to Kailua, Hawaii and is on standby in the event that local assistance is needed.

We have received a few inquires about how Americans can stay informed about the help the recovery effort. Here are few resources to get your started:

  • FEMA – Where you can learn more about how to help both domestically and internationally.
  • FEMA Situation Report – Find the most up-to-date information on the Federal Government response to disasters.
  • – A national public service campaign designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies including natural and man-made disasters.

The Corporation for National and Community Service, in addition to its programs, maintains a Disaster Services Unit. The DSU coordinates the agency’s disaster related activities, which include everything from preparedness and mitigation to response and recovery.

Kelly DeGraff is the Senior Advisor for Disaster Services at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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