HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - When disaster strikes an area like it did in Lee County over the weekend, hundreds of volunteers make it known they're ready to help.
The North Alabama disaster response group Prepare and Respond, or PAR, said it's not always as simple as just wanting to volunteer. There's a lot of work that needs to be done to prepare for the influx of volunteers, too.
First, PAR notifies local emergency management agencies that they're available to help as soon as local authorities are ready to have them. It's not as simple as arriving and starting to clean.
"The debris field in this storm is much like what we had in Madison County in 2011," said Danny Walker, a PAR board member. "In this case, it's so overwhelming, they're still in the recovery and rescue mode."
Walker notes that when there's loss of life, the cleanup process needs to be approached with patience and understanding.
"You have to be a little more delicate," he said. "You remove the trees and make the home site safe so that the homeowner can access it, but then we'll also need to help them go through their personal items. We can't just pile that up for removal."
PAR members are overnight volunteers. When the logistics of lodging, food, and showers are arranged, they'll stay in the area for several days. Right now, their plan is to head to Lee County Thursday morning.
Their first visit will be to scout out the needs of the area, so for the next trip, they'll know more specifically which equipment to take, and how they can help.
Prepare and Respond says if you want to help, a great way to contribute is by buying Walmart, Lowe's, and Home Depot gift cards and donating them to PAR. They distribute the cards to storm victims during their volunteer visits.