March 8th is International Women's Day! Did you know that almost half of C.A.A. personnel are women? Many of whom serve in a variety of specialized roles from Security Agents and Emergency Responders, to unit and senior leadership within the organization. Today we salute and thank them for all their contributions to our agency.
The Central Aid Agency recently adopted a formal Primary Operating Philosophy that codifies how our organization functions when it comes to operations.
The Primary Operating Philosophy of the Central Aid Agency is for the agency to be a well-trained deployable resource for governmental and nongovernmental organizations alike, able to assist and support, especially when their own resources are insufficient. Provide capability in difficult or hard to reach areas. Fill community needs that may otherwise be left unmet. And supplement, rather than supplant, the capabilities of existing governmental and nongovernmental organizations.
The recently activated Central Aid Agency Chaplain Corps is gearing up to add this critical capability to the C.A.A. repertoire and deployable resources. Under the experienced guidance of Lt. Jim Fields, Branch Director of the Chaplain Corps and retired Master Chaplain, the Chaplain Corps already has operating policies and a training curriculum ready to go. The next step will be to recruit people interested in becoming C.A.A. Chaplains. C.A.A. Chaplains will provide spiritual and emotional support to C.A.A. personnel and the public alike, and Chaplains can be deployed alongside other C.A.A. resources during response operations for critical incidents and disasters.
During most of last week the Central Aid Agency, including members of Central Aid Agency CERT, deployed alongside Lane Community College Campus CERT to support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination clinics. During the 7 days of deployment, almost 2,500 people received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. As emergency responders, all of our personnel in attendance were also given the opportunity to receive the vaccine if they wanted it.
Our CERT program Central Aid Agency CERT was featured as a "CERT Snapshot" in the FEMA Region 10 Individual & Community Preparedness quarterly newsletter for our deployment related to the Holiday Farm Fire!
On the evening of January 22nd, 2021 C.A.A. Board of Directors met to discuss and vote on some proposed changes that would alter some fundamental aspects of the Central Aid Agency. These changes have been in discussion for several weeks now, and it was decided by the Board that implementing them would be in the best interest of the C.A.A. moving forward. Taking into consideration the limited financial and personnel resources of the organization.
The first change implemented will be the deactivation of Community Service as a Primary Command of the Central Aid Agency and the retiring of its senior leadership and Board positions. This issue was not taken lightly given the importance of this Command to the C.A.A. over the years. The decision was based on many factors including current personnel interest and participation, current direction of the organization, and best use of available resources. Although the mission of community service remains a core aspect of the Central Aid Agency, and we will still engage in community service projects from time to time, they will no longer occur on a regular basis and will not have a formalized Command to oversee them.
The second change is to narrow the primary operational focus of the Central Aid Agency to our Emergency Management mission (including security), which will alter our current unit and command structure. Emergency management and response has been an important (and growing) part of the Central Aid Agency since 2012 when the Rapid Response Team was activated. It is an area that continues to be one of the biggest for personnel engagement and community impact. Prioritizing it as our main operational focus right now makes the most sense given the current makeup of our organization and our limited available resources.
The third and final change is in regards to our regular meetings. Rather than having Sector Meetings monthly and Emergency Response meetings every other month, both meetings are now going to be combined into a new single modular Sector Meeting that will occur once a month on the 2nd Friday starting at 1900. Changing the meeting format will increase available training time and make it easier for personnel, since all personnel will now attend the same meeting that happens every month. It will also open up the calendar for extra hands-on training in addition to the meetings, and will allow us to start implementing a Saturday training day that will occur at least quarterly, to further increase our level of training and allow learning more advanced skills.
Many people in our region have been affected by the ongoing wildfires currently burning across much of western Oregon, and our hearts and prayers are with those that have lost their homes or family members. As part of the regional response to the wildfires, Central Aid Agency has been deploying to support wildfire response efforts. Our first deployment was to Silke Field in Springfield to assist with donations management. The next day Central Aid Agency was requested by the Lane County Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) to deploy to help assist Lane County Government, St. Vincent De Paul, and United Way in setting up a new donations center at Four Corners in Eugene. The following week Central Aid Agency was again requested to deploy security and emergency response personnel to provide support for the donations center. It has been a busy couple of weeks, and will most likely continue to be as our region shifts from fighting and containing the fires, to long-term recovery.
The Central Aid Agency Board of Directors convened digitally to discuss how to move the organization forward in the age of COVID-19. Their final determination was to put it out to a vote of the general membership, and did so soon after. The members decided that rather than keep everything postponed until in-person operations can resume, meetings and training should instead be moved online to a digital format. The June Sector Meeting was the first meeting to take place digitally, and paves the way for future meetings and training to occur as scheduled, but digitally. It is our hope to begin in-person operations as soon as it is safe and prudent to do so, but in the meantime digital meetings will allow us to keep moving forward as an organization during these uncertain times.