Relationship-Building Proves to Be Key in Community Mass Care


June 17, 2014


Being able to build strong, dependable relationships is an important aspect of everyday life, and the same can easily be said about relationships in emergency management.

In an emergency situation, emergency managers rely on different groups of people to aid in recovery efforts and mass care, such as volunteers, community groups and other non-governmental organizations. Therefore, training and educational courses that bring these different entities together are crucial in order to better prepare for disasters within communities.

From June 11 – June 12, MEMA facilitated a Community Mass Care and Emergency Assistance Course (G108) in Brewer, ME to serve that purpose.

The goal of this class was to “prepare community agencies, organizations, and businesses to work together in coordination with emergency management and traditional Mass Care providers to plan and provide Mass Care and Emergency Assistance services to those affected by disaster.” Those in attendance were emergency management employees from Knox County, Hancock County, Penobscot County, Piscataquis County, and Waldo County, as well as American Red Cross employees and volunteers from around the state.

“Everyone here is an expert in their own field,” said Richard Higgins, the State Volunteer Agency Liaison at MEMA and student in the class.

During the first day of the course, students were asked to brainstorm what they would like to get out of the class. Some wanted to focus on how to implement shelter activations and what that process should look like, while others wanted to better understand mass care and the ‘big picture’ in terms of community support.

Four primary mass care services that are needed in emergency situations: sheltering, feeding, distribution of emergency supplies and reunification. These four services served as the foundation of many class discussions and activities throughout the two days.

Networking was another key aspect of the course. Mike Grant, MEMA Emergency Response Training Coordinator and facilitator for the course, emphasized to students the importance of getting to know community partners before emergency situations occur.

The benefits of community and working together then quickly became the most important lesson, especially during a class-lead discussion at the end of the second day. During this discussion, students acknowledged flaws related to mass care within their own emergency plans, and then tried to figure out how they could all work together more efficiently during emergencies, ultimately eliminating such flaws. For example, most students agreed that they needed to better advertise preparedness resources to the general public.

Students also found that many of their agencies’ emergency plans lacked in areas dealing with emergency mass care. Because of the networking and discussions over the course of the two days, they were able to bring valuable information back to their agencies and fill those gaps.

“Whether you’re the Red Cross or whether you’re MEMA, no one operates in a vacuum,” said Laurie Levine, American Red Cross Liaison for MEMA. “This is a partnership.”

Many students also agreed that although the class was valuable and worth attending, they would have liked to see a broader range of organizations and agencies in attendance. They felt as though “those that should have been here weren’t here.” MEMA will take these concerns into consideration for future training courses.

For more information on this course, or if you’re interested in learning more about MEMA training courses, please contact Mike Grant at or (800) 485-8735.

If you’re interested in becoming an American Red Cross volunteer in Maine, please visit