Example of an emergency preparedness kit.
Example of an emergency preparedness kit.

As the region prepares for the start of hurricane season on June 1, community organizations, emergency response agencies and industry experts will come together for a Regional Planning Symposium to learn how they can better serve the community in the event of a disaster. Liberty Lutheran and our Lutheran Disaster Response program are at the forefront of the effort.

The June 10, 2014 event, hosted by the Southeast Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SEPA VOAD,) is a first of its kind for the region, made possible thanks to a grant from the Southeast Pennsylvania Regional Task Force (SEPA RTF).

SEPA VOAD is made up of independent voluntary organizations led by Lutheran Disaster Response, a service of Liberty Lutheran. Other member organizations include Team Rubicon, the Salvation Army, the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, the American Red Cross, United Methodist Committee on Relief, United Church of Christ, and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, among others. SEPA VOAD’s mission is for its members to independently meet relief, recovery and response needs within a cooperative framework in preparing the region for disaster.

The upcoming event comes on the heels of a harsh winter in Southeastern Pennsylvania, in which several serious snow and ice storms endangered lives and damaged thousands of homes and properties. Disaster Response Coordinator for Liberty’s Lutheran Disaster Response and SEPA VOAD President Julia Menzo says the Regional Planning Symposium is an opportunity for human services organizations to learn how they can better serve their own stakeholders, clients, and communities. It is also an opportunity to collectively form strategies to build a more resilient Southeastern PA.

“It can be challenging to coordinate disaster response when something happens,” says Menzo. “As helping agencies, we work well together, yet understand that there are ways in which we can better work together, particularly as our members are growing.”

The SEPA VOAD Regional Planning Symposium will be at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa. Speakers include experts in human services response to disaster:

  • Peter Gudaitis, President, National Disaster Interfaiths Network; Chief Response Officer, NY Disaster Interfaith Services
  • Laura Zink Marx, Executive Director, The NJ 2-1-1 Partnership
  • Samantha Phillips, Deputy Managing Director for Emergency Management for the City of Philadelphia; Co-Chair, SEPA Task Force


“Bringing more partners in and getting to know everybody’s capabilities and what they are interested in contributing, will make it easier for us all to leverage our resources and in the end help more people in the midst of a disaster,” Menzo says.

About Southeastern Pennsylvania Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (SEPA VOAD)

SEPA VOAD coordinates planning with County Emergency Management agencies and the many voluntary agencies responding to a disaster so they provide more effective service with less duplication when a disaster strikes. The agencies may be active across the disaster continuum (Preparedness, Response, Recovery and Mitigation) within Southeastern Pennsylvania and in support of other VOAD organizations. SEPA VOAD was formed after the events of September 11, 2001, which emphasized the need to expand coordinated disaster response and recovery efforts in the region. SEPA VOAD’s national counterpart, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) was formed in 1969 following the devastation of Hurricane Camille.

About Liberty Lutheran

Incorporated in 2001 and headquartered in Ambler, Pa., Liberty Lutheran, with locations across Pennsylvania and combined service history of 300 years, faithfully provides vital resources to more than 61,000 individuals and families facing life-changing situations. These individualized services include independent and personal care, skilled nursing, rehabilitation, hospice care, in-home supports, wellness services, children and family services, integration services for immigrants and political refugees and disaster response. Liberty Lutheran’s team of dedicated employees serves individuals and families through their family of services in Pennsylvania, including Artman, Paul’s Run Retirement Community, Liberty at Home, Lutheran Children and Family Services, Lutheran Congregational Services, The Hearth at Drexel (formerly Mary J. Drexel), and The Village at Penn State. www.libertylutheran.org.