County Judge Allen Dodson said at a press conference today that the county government and the state and federal agencies are in control, as much as they can be, of the "horrific tragedy" of Sunday night's tornado.
The most important thing is coordinating the relief and recovery effort, Dodson said, which involves informing the thousands of people who want to volunteer alongside and with professional emergency workers.
The county administration has partnered with Team Rubicon, a national group of military veterans that make it their mission to bring military-grade organization and know-how to civilian disaster zones. Team Rubicon members have already reconnoitered the storm path, using GIS technology to make a disaster severity map of the tornado's path that will guide where volunteers are sent and what they're sent to do.
Also, Dodson said, the effectiveness of the county's response depends on public assistance in the form of public money available at declared disaster zones. "We, as your governemnt, in order for us to properly receive the reimbursement of our expenses, we have to have proper accounting, and that all starts with volunteer registration," Dodson said. "... thank you again for your patience and you willingness to work within the framework of the volunteer management process within [Team Rubicon].
The county will be delegating the job of volunteer organization to Team Rubicon, and in coming days, volunteers will be getting their assignments from them.
Volunteers have been checking in at the Beryl Baptist Church in Vilonia and City Hall in Mayflower to be signed in and get tags identifying them as volunteer workers and be told where they're needed. This will be the volunteer system until the county government advises otherwise.
There is a strong law enforcement presence in both towns and along the path of the storm, and only people with some purpose are being allowed in to damage areas.
In the next 24 hours, the volunteer response will become much more organized. Volunteers should continue to do what they’re doing today, but expect that in the next few days Team Rubicon will be assigning specific repair and debris removal tasks and tracking progress until the jobs are done in accordance with FEMA and EPA standards.
"Sign in is imperative," County Attorney David Hogue wrote in a news release this morning. "The signing in of volunteers affects federal assistance dollars and it allows workers to be used effectively and efficiently."
A main volunteer resource center will be established at Home Depot in Conway, with forward volunteer access points set up in Vilonia and Mayflower — exactly where in Mayflower and Vilonia these will be is being decided. Home Depot will be working with Team Rubicon to provide tools and equipment as needed.
Law enforcement will continue to focus on security at Mayflower and Vilonia and along the path of the tornado. The 7 p.m. — 7 a.m. curfew will remain in effect at the damage areas of Mayflower and Vilonia until further notice. Residents inside the damage areas can stay, if they have somewhere to stay, "but the volunteers and anyone else has to leave," FCSO Chief Deputy Matt Rice said.
Sightseers are being turned away at road checkpoints — one law enforcement officer at a checkpoint on Wednesday said he’d sent several "looky-loos" back the way they came.