501 Commons first created the Prepare/Respond/Serve program to help nonprofits create emergency preparedness plans. Through the Washington Commission of Volunteer Service’s Volunteer Generation Fund, the program has been expanded to low income housing properties. One of the innovations of this program is how it utilizes veteran volunteers, whose valuable skills help these communities build robust emergency preparedness plans. This program helps community organizations, especially those in vulnerable populations, respond to emergencies and recover quickly.
The local Volunteer Centers have assisted in recruiting skill-based veteran, active-duty, and bilingual volunteers. The program is able to pull from a database of over 450 volunteers in order to access those that are available and willing to apply their skills to the project. Another innovation is the customized planning tools that help communities build their emergency preparedness plans; the tools are the PRS Assessment©, pre- and post- questionaire to measure the levels of preparedness in the community, and a PRS Guide© that is customized for low-income communities. Another innovation is the high ability for replication of the program by the 501 Commons service members who share their skills in emergency preparedness with new service corps members. As an example, 501 Commons organized a teleconference for alumni to share their skills and knowledge with newer members last year.
To learn more about this program, see pages 69-70 in the Transforming Communities Through Service Publication.