New Jersey Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NJVOAD) was originally formed during the mid-1980s. A small group of non-profit organizations joined together to establish a proactive entity in an effort to prepare for natural and other forms of disaster. This original group was unable to sustain ongoing efforts.
After Hurricane Andrew struck the United States in 1992, disaster related agencies decided to set up a National Disaster Task Force. Several New Jersey leaders in the disaster field met and began to discuss statewide disaster strategies. The following organizations joined together to form NJVOAD as we know it today: American Red Cross, Community FoodBank of NJ, FEMA Region II, Governor’s Office on Volunteerism, Office of Emergency Management and The Salvation Army.
In 1998, NJVOAD hosted the Annual National VOAD Conference in Atlantic City, and further strengthened their presence in New Jersey and the VOAD community.
In September 1999, Tropical Storm Floyd devastated Bound Brook in Somerset County, and NJVOAD sprang into action. They worked with the local community to establish a county based VOAD to support local relief and recovery efforts.
The tragic events of September 11, 2001 presented a new and challenging set of obstacles. While the number of deaths of New Jerseyans reached almost 700, second only to NY, New Jersey was not a federally declared disaster area. As such, financial resources were extremely limited and did not match the need. To meet the tremendous emotional and spiritual needs which grew out of the tragedy of 9/11, faith-based organizations joined together to address this and other disaster and long-term recovery needs of communities throughout New Jersey. NJVOAD helped these organizations to form as the New Jersey Interfaith Partnership for Disaster Recovery (NJIPDR) in October of 2001.
In 2002 and 2003, NJVOAD provided regional trainings to establish county or regional Voluntary/Community Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs/COADs) in communities throughout NJ. As a result of these efforts, VOADs/COADs were formed in 12 counties. While several VOADs/COADs remained active through the remainder of the decade, communities that did not experience localized disasters struggled to maintain engagement of these groups.
Hurricane Irene made landfall near Little Egg Inlet in Atlantic County on August 28, 2011. Almost 930,000 homes and businesses across the state lost power. Nine rivers and creeks reached record flood levels and overflowed into backyards and basements, major highways and downtown streets. Thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed by flooding. In addition to tremendous damage to homes, business and communities, the storm claimed the lives of 12 New Jerseyans. NJVOAD provided coordination and communication to the five VOADs/COADs that remained active and helped Long-Term Recovery Groups (LTRGs) form in the most affected areas: Passaic, Morris, Somerset, Bergen, Middlesex and Union Counties.
Many New Jersey residents were still recovering from Hurricane Irene when Hurricane Sandy (or Super Storm Sandy, as dubbed by the media) pummeled New Jersey on October 29, 2012. Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and affected the entire state of New Jersey. There were 34 deaths attributed to this natural disaster, and more than 258,000 New Jersey households reported some sort of property loss to FEMA. Fourteen counties established LTRGs to address the unmet needs of survivors and help individuals navigate the complicated recovery process. NJVOAD received funding from the American Red Cross, PSEG Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to hire staff and coordinate a statewide AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) project to build capacity in Sandy LTRGs and establish or strengthen county and regional VOADs/COADs. The two-year VISTA project provided immense support and long-term capacity building throughout New Jersey, resulting in a VOAD/COAD presence supporting all 21 counties, a New Jersey Long-Term Recovery Guide, a New Jersey VOAD/COAD Manual and much more.
In addition to the “named” storms and events above, several regions throughout NJ have experienced localized or regional events resulting in catastrophic damage to their communities. NJVOAD has partnered with these communities and the international community to respond to the following:
• April 1995: Spring Flooding in NJ communities
• May 1999: Donations Coordination at Fort Dix for Kosovo Refugees
• August 2000: Flooding in Somerset, Morris and Hunterdon Counties
• April 2005: Spring Flooding in Mercer, Passaic and Somerset Counties
• June 2006: Delaware River Flooding in Sussex, Hunterdon, Warren and Mercer Counties
• April 2007: Spring Flooding in Bergen, Passaic, Somerset, Burlington, Essex and Middlesex Counties
• March 2010: Nor’Easter in Bergen, Passaic, Somerset, Middlesex and Union Counties
• March 2011: Spring Flooding in Passaic, Morris and Somerset Counties
• June 2012: Derecho Winds in Atlantic, Cumberland and Salem Counties
• June 2015: Severe Storm in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties
• January 2016: Severe Winter Storm affecting Atlantic, Cape May and multiple other counties
In April 2015, NJVOAD launched HELPNJNOW.ORG, a dynamic, interactive, web-based resource providing education, direction, information and tools for people to help themselves and others better prepare for and respond to disaster. This site was developed in partnership with the New Jersey Governor’s Office of Volunteerism and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) to meet several needs identified post-Sandy – specifically the post-disaster coordination of spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers and donated goods.
In May 2016, NJVOAD was honored at the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) Conference held in Minneapolis, MN, and awarded the State VOAD of the Year Award. NJVOAD received multiple nominations for this prestigious honor and was granted the award for its work in supporting Sandy recovery and building more resilient communities throughout NJ through developing collaborative partnerships and implementing innovative projects and programs.
The State of New Jersey has recognized the efforts and value of NJVOAD, and NJOEM and State Police have partnered with NJVOAD for preparedness and response exercises. The Regional Operations Intelligence Center (ROIC) has a seat reserved for NJVOAD to actively join in the response when the Governor declares a state of emergency. NJVOAD and HELPNJNOW.ORG are included in the State Emergency Operations Plan.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also recognized and supported NJVOAD’s pioneering efforts and has asked NJVOAD staff and Board members to speak during regional meetings, trainings and conferences.
NJVOAD was incorporated in 2003 and was recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in the Fall of 2014.