How MAF Prepares for Disasters

This is the second in a three-part series of posts about MAF and disaster response.

John Woodberry Organizing Chaos

When it comes to being prepared for a disaster, John Woodberry thrives.

As MAF’s manager of security and disaster response, Woodberry is ready in a moment’s notice to coordinate disaster response efforts in different parts of the world through MAF’s programs and vast network of partnerships. However, these response operations aren’t thrown together overnight – much careful planning takes place long before a catastrophic event occurs.

“MAF takes a mid-level approach to disaster response,” Woodberry said. “By that, I mean that we don’t take a fire station approach where we are sitting around with a lot of equipment and people waiting for a disaster to happen. And neither do we wait until after disaster strikes to determine if we can do something.

“Instead our mid-level approach means that we are proactively building up our internal surge capacity to respond well. When disaster strikes, we know what we can do and the potential resources we have to do it. It’s just a matter then of determining if the disaster meets our criteria for involvement.”

With MAF’s operational footprint in 32 countries, a “surge” results in an increased presence of personnel and equipment to facilitate disaster relief efforts. It can be any combination of staff, planes, communication equipment, computers or supplies – or all of the above. Woodberry also maintains a 48-hour response call list, detailing individuals’ skill sets, language abilities, and other valuable talents that might be useful in a disaster.

“We know that we have what we need to maintain a surge in a disaster relief effort of one month without major impact to our ongoing programs,” Woodberry said. “After that, we need to evaluate how long the disaster response is needed and develop a more detailed plan.”

Woodberry doesn’t mind the frenetic environment that occurs in a first-response situation, though he cautions that it’s not for everyone.

“In those first few days after a disaster, the situation is chaotic. It can be day three and plan four. And not all people are wired to do well in that type of situation,” Woodberry said. “After that initial relief phase, we can then bring in those people who are better suited to serve in a longer-term ongoing relief plan.”

Read last week’s post when Woodberry explained the process of how MAF determines if it is going to respond to a disaster.  Next week, the final installment of this series will cover the essential items, unique tools, and amazing resources Woodberry carries in his disaster response “go-bag”.

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