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Mid-Missouri disaster plans

The tornado disaster in Arkansas and the southeast United States this week opened up an impressive rush of volunteers to the area to help.

Missouri Task Force One’s Doug Westhoff told ABC 17 News this week how well coordinated local authorities are in Arkansas managing those volunteers.

The situation raises the question, what systems Mid-Missouri has in place if something similar happened here?

The City of Columbia and the Boone County Fire Protection District developed the current emergency operations plan last year.

The plan calls for voluntary action center to coordinate volunteers.

As an Alabama native, Nick Foster felt drawn back home when a tornado hit the state.

“I think that when these things happen in the Midwest, there’s a great sense of community, not only within the smaller areas, but within the Midwest as a whole. When something like this happens, they immediately identify and immediately want to be a part,” said Foster.

However, there is such a thing as too much help.

Foster said the outpouring of donations as ABC 17 witnessed in Arkansas and as happens in other disaster zones can complicate efforts to provide aid.

“There’s a lot of good will behind that, but sometimes these things creates issues of their own in terms of logisticallyhandling them, managing them and being what is actually needed.”

Foster met with the city six months ago to review the emergency plan.

Under the current plan, Foster would run the registration center for volunteers.

That site would be determined based on which part of town is affected.

“We have the basics in place. I think we need to take it out, dust it off, make sure everything’s in place.”

If a natural disaster hit Columbia, the city recommends a few places for people to volunteer.

The Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, is associated with the Columbia Fire Department.

The group trains volunteers specifically for disaster relief.

The Columbia Police volunteers and Medical Reserve Corps offer disaster training in different specialties.

Neighborhood Services Manager Leigh Britt said these organizations already have specific roles in disaster relief.

Joining them is the fastest way to get on the ground and help.

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