City starts Katrina hotline

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

A hurricane hotline will begin operating through the city’s Emergency Operations Center this morning, giving local residents a venue to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

&uot;We’re just trying offer a human voice instead of a machine to address questions and concerns about offering assistance to people in ravaged areas,&uot; said Capt. Jim T. Judkins, the city’s emergency services coordinator.

The hotline, which will be manned by city employees from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, including Sunday, will be a clearinghouse of information on how to help.

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&uot;We know that local residents and businesses are eager to offer assistance in this national crisis,&uot; said City Manager R. Steven Herbert.

&uot;Our telephone hotline will provide the local connection for those who want to help.&uot;

So far, the city has received a handful of calls from people wanting to help, said Judkins, spokesman for the Suffolk Fire Department.

Because of the magnitude the disaster, it’s vital that people use appropriate channels to offer contributions or volunteer service.

&uot;The agencies that on scene coordinating relief efforts don’t want people coming down there on their own to help,&uot; said Judkins.

&uot;Right now, people going down there are being turned away if they are not directly associated with a group providing disaster relief, such as the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.&uot;

The local EOC will coordinate local relief efforts with those at the state and national level, Judkins said.

&uot;We will arrange for all resources to go through Richmond,&uot; Judkins said. &uot;That will prevent the duplication of services and allow officials to make sure the resources are distributed to where they are needed most.&uot;

The Virginia Municipal League has received a call for action from the National League of Cities, asking local governments to help cities, towns and counties in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

&uot;Right now, all eyes are on New Orleans,&uot; Judkins said. &uot;That is where all the federal money will be going.

&uot;But there are other people hurting in smaller communities that haven’t been in the news.&uot;

The city is finalizing plans to &uot;adopt&uot; one of these municipalities, Judkins said.

Details will be ironed out and publicized during the next week.

In the meantime, Judkins said, he is recommending that financial contributions be made through the Salvation Army or Red Cross.

On the state level, Gov. Mark Warner has said that hurricane relief from the state workforce will be coordinated through a special Hurricane Katrina fund drive to selected charities for monetary donations only.

For more information on how to help hurricane victims, those interested can call the city’s hotline at 923-4770.