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Staff and volunteers of CSS were able to attend a national disaster response conference due to a recent grant from Catholic Charities USA.  The Applied Institute for Disaster Excellence (AIDE) conference is a “by the network, for the network” training that strengthens local disaster response capacity. Attendees come away with best practices and new relationships that serve as a critical asset at a time of a disaster event.  In addition to the core training, peer-to-peer networking opportunities and daily liturgy, attendees had the opportunity to go the sites of previous disasters and witness the impact as well as recovery measures made post-disaster.

Some of the topics studied by CSS staff and volunteers included Social Vulnerability of At-Risk Populations, Disaster Case Management, Navigating FEMA, Disaster Housing Considerations, and Disaster Fundraising.  They attended special presentations from industry specialists from FEMA, NORAD/NORTHCOM, NOAA and others who spoke on pertinent issues such as race, service navigation, and public/private partnerships.   A fun exercise to end the conference was the Extreme Disaster Game.  This was a role-playing game to give you a feel for what it takes to build community resiliency in the face of disaster.  Players worked together to make decisions and solve problems during the fast-paced disaster simulation.

This conference was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other passionate individuals as we work to develop our Disaster Response Capacity Plan here at Catholic Social Services.  A special thank you to those volunteers who have lent their time and talent to help us respond to those in need, most recently during our efforts to help storm-impacted families in Pine Ridge.

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