Reducing Our Risk

Organization: 
World Cares Centre

Entry Overview

World Cares Center (WCC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that empowers grassroots communities through disaster response training, support and coordination to facilitate bottom up resilient recovery worldwide since 2001. Founded during the September 11, 2001 response by neighborhood volunteers, WCC educates the community leaders and managers and individuals of all ages (from youth to senior citizens) through a wide range of disaster volunteerism training programs.

When disaster strikes the greatest community challenges occur within the first 72 hours. WCC recognizes that climate disasters are not predictable, and strives to prepare individuals and communities pre-disaster through educational training, to reduce vulnerability and mitigate harm. WCC educates on how to effectively reduce the impact of climate disasters on lives, homes, neighborhoods, and entire communities. WCC's community driven resiliency efforts are a proven solution to climate disasters. Citizens educated in WCC's programs are an empowered first line of defense, emerging as Ready Responders poised to take action in a safe, coordinated fashion in all four stages of the disaster cycle - preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation.

General Info
Lisa
Orloff
Email : 
lorloff@worldcares.org
Organization Address: 
520 8th Avenue, Room 201 B
New York, New York 10018
United States
Problem
Population Impacted: 
16.6% of the land in NYC and 76,000 buildings
Hazard: 
Storm Surge
Identify the likelihood and frequency of this hazard : 
NY has seen increased severity of hurricanes, blizzards, and flooding. The American Meterological Society has found that a Sandy-like storm is more likely to occur now than in the 1950s. What was once a 100-year storm will now occur as frequently as once a decade. Rising sea levels, coastal storms, and floods pose a tremendous threat to residential coastal areas impacted by Sandy, and even less severe storms have the propensity to cause devastating damage.
Explain how vulnerable the community is to this hazard: 
Over 270,000 residential buildings containing over 1 million housing units are in the three identified NYC area hurricane evacuation zones. While the surge from Sandy reached nearly 76,000 buildings (over 300,000 housing units) more than three times that number of units could be impacted by a higher category hurricane. Social and economic factors also exacerbate the situation, as the area is peppered with huge segments of vulnerable low-income populations.
List the potential affects of this hazard: 
Flooding causes death, destruction, and serious health risks, such as mold development and sewage contact. During floods, coastal residential communities are impacted with severe residential structural damage or total destruction. Basements and living spaces flood. People are displaced from their homes, and local infrastructure comes to a standstill. Traditional responders can’t reach those in need. Extensive power outages can be expected, and people are unable to obtain medication, information, and transportation.
Identify how sensitive the community is to these affects: 
After Sandy, 150,000 households in NYC registered with FEMA (half the surge area households). 45% of these homes were owned, 55% rented. FEMA covered losses up to $31,900 for both. For losses not covered, homeowners and renters could apply for loans to cover damage. The majority of renters had low incomes, making it difficult to find housing. The NYC boroughs are linguistically diverse, with large Hispanic/Latino/Chinese populations, creating communication barriers when climate disaster strikes.
Action
Preparedness Goal: 
WCC educates people on how to reduce the likelihood of climate flooding and how to prepare and respond during disasters.
Implementing Actions: 

WCC's pre-disaster education includes intensive education about climate change, to raise awareness of social changes and physical actions that contribute to climate change, and steps that can be taken to create a more sustainable world. Pre-disaster, response training provided by WCC develops the capacity of individuals, organizations, and communities that are impacted by climate related disasters, hazardous waste, and other disasters. Post disaster, WCC mobilizes volunteers to safely and effectively respond to disaster sites. This significantly impacts the communities served, as they are better prepared to address these situations, and volunteers are protected during disaster response, further reducing harm and risk.

WCC's focus is on increasing community resilience through a variety of training programs, which all contain climate education modules. These programs include Youth in Action training for youth of all ages and Seniors in Response training for senior citizens. World Cares Center's Leading and Managing training prepares for local leaders to coordinate their constituents in the event of a crisis. World Cares Center's Disaster and Voluneerism Training ensures the physical and mental heath of those seeking to emerge as disaster volunteers when crisis strikes. Participants gain understanding of disaster management structure, physical and emotional hazards of volunteering, as well as ways to reduce and address such hazards. Grassroots Readiness and Response answers the emergency preparedness needs of individuals, families, and communities through a series of Disaster Volunteerism workshops designed to empower proactive citizens to be safe and effective disaster volunteers.

WCC provides trainings in Spanish and Chinese to increase the capacity of volunteer disaster responders to meet the needs of the underserved populations.

Solution
Describe Your Solution: 

Globally, scientists have issued dire warnings about the potential destabilization and disruption of the environment as we know it due to both the social and political impacts of climate change. WCC's climate change instruction covers the earth science behind climate change, including the latest evolving climate change patterns and recent climate change research. The training also covers pro-active social changes and adaptations necessary to address climate change. Students learn of steps to mitigate flood damage already taken, and brainstorm for new ideas to address local flooding concerns. WCC encourages students to think forward, and visualize the future impacts of climate change. Discussions cover sources of emissions of greenhouse gases, current technology to slow climate change, international policy solutions, history of climate change in the local area, and the global energy infrastructure.

WCC further reduces flood disaster impact through its disaster response trainings. WCC understands that citizens that survive unharmed respond as helpers rather than victims during climate disasters. When climate disaster strikes, key local infrastructures come to a standstill - from transportation to communication systems. Roads are blocked, official responders are overwhelmed, and the most venerable people are left helpless and disconnected, except for their neighbors. Many residents fail to evacuate, subjecting themselves to increased danger. WCC trained volunteers to fill the gap created where disaster needs can't be met. These trained volunteers stay in their community and mitigate the chaos and confusion that arises when disaster strikes while serving the immediate needs of their neighbors. WCC is ready with an extensive network within affected communities, ready to distribute lifesaving emergency supplies, dry ice, bottled water and food, hand out sleeping bags door to door to powerless households, and assist people displaced from their homes.

Results
Economic?: 

WCC has proven to be the subject matter expert in efficient spontaneous volunteer coordination and climate-related flood hazard training. Since Sandy alone, WCC trained over 22,950 volunteers to contribute to community recovery. Post-Superstorm Sandy, WCC provided much-needed coordination to organize volunteer groups performing cleanup and muck-out services for disadvantaged residents, as well as repair services to help people get back in their homes. WCC helped homeowners remove water-damaged drywall, furnishings and appliances from flooded homes, for a total of $3.5 million in free muck-out/mold remediation services in vulnerable, low income neighborhoods. WCC also delivered $45,000 in relief supplies to affected residents.

Environmental?: 

WCC's expertise regarding volunteer coordination and flood hazards resulted in a partnership with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), and Rutgers University to develop and deliver a comprehensive flood response/safety training to keep vounteers safe. This curriculum is the first of its kind for disaster volunteers, and it prevents injuries and disease due to hazards and exposures that may occur during hazardous waste operations and volunteer response. Curriculum topics include airborne and worksite hazards, proper usage of PPE, conducting home assessments, and performing muck-outs/mold removal in flooded homes.

Social?: 

Continued communication is a key component of fostering individual and community resiliency. Acting upon the foresight to know the importance of maintaining a hub for trained volunteers, WCC created and implemented the Ready Responders Network (RRN), a social networking site that connects individuals, communities, and disaster response organizations. RRN is a proactive step in mitigating and managing the impact of future disasters, as it is the 'go-to' place for trained volunteers to stay connected to WCC and each other. WCC also delivers Sandy Connect, a free quarterly newsletter to flood-impacted community resources and information.

What were the negative or unintended impacts (if any) associated with implementing this solution? : 

There were and are no negative or unintended impacts associated with WCC's trainings and response.

Replication/Scale
Return on Investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?: 

WCC is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, and all WCC's training programs are funded entirely through grants, donations, and fundraising. Since its founding 13 years ago, WCC has trained over 100,000 individuals at no cost. WCC continues to expand upon its climate disaster mitigation and response training. Building capacity in communities via educated, environmentally conscious individuals who are also trained, knowlegeable climate disaster volunteers is invaluable. The services these individuals provide to their communities are priceless, as trained volunteers save both property and lives. Our greatest assets are prepared individuals and communities, equipped with both the knowledge and the proper equipment to serve others.

What are the main factors needed to successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 

WCC has implemented its training programs in 27 states and 5 countries. WCC is a 100 Resilient Cities platform partner, and has replicated the training via Sister City programs in Haiti, Japan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and the Philippines. The greatest obstacle to continued replication is lack of adequate funds. With additional funding, even more people can be trained in WCC's invaluable, climate and lifesaving programs.

Contest Info
Contest Name: 
Reducing Our Risk

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