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Kansas City Disaster Relief Exercise Held To Avoid 'Disaster Within A Disaster'

Dozens of volunteers from across the Kansas City metro gathered at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., Saturday as part of a disaster simulation.

The scenario was that a category EF-5 tornado like the one that hit Greensburg, Kan., in 2007 has devastated Johnson County. The exercise, led by the Kansas City Regional Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, was intended to figure out how to deal with large influxes of volunteers. 

KC Regional VOAD Chair Pat Cundiff says that her organization sets up these mock "volunteer reception centers" because real disasters tend to draw thousands of people who want to help.

"You know, often it's said that the spontaneous and unaffiliated volunteers are a disaster within a disaster," Cundiff said. "When something immense happens in a community, folks come out, [but] they aren't organized."

Glenn McCary with the Church of the Resurrection says that reception centers are a relatively new concept in disaster relief, but are quickly becoming adopted by organizations nationwide.

"In a 30 day period, a volunteer reception center might process 10,000 people," McCary said. "It's one of those things that people are discovering is very necessary."

Representatives from the United Way, American Red Cross and Salvation Army attended the exercise, as well as emergency management teams from Johnson and Jackson counties. 

Cody Newill is part of KCUR's audience development team. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill or email him at cody@kcur.org.
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