After readers reported that they had been approached by door-to-door canvassers Saturday, asking questions about damage done to their home during the hurricane, Historic City News set out to determine what agency was conducting the survey.
We contacted the appropriate emergency management team and asked about obtaining results from the residential canvassing, only to be told that the City of St Augustine had not been asked to conduct such a survey.
We were provided a copy of a flyer that introduced the canvasser as a volunteer from St Paul A.M.E. church, but displayed the official coat of arms of the City of St Augustine, and individually named vice mayor Todd Neville.
We contacted City Attorney Isabelle Lopez and asked if any non-government organization had been authorized by the City of St Augustine administration to canvass possible victims of Hurricane Irma under the auspices of any official endorsement, partnership, or participation. Lopez responded, “I am not aware of it.”
St Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver, a Lincolnville resident, told reporters that she first learned of the flyers when one of her neighbors brought a copy to her. Shaver contacted City Manager John Regan with essentially the same question. Shaver says that Regan told her “no”.
One church volunteer, Judith Seraphin, told Historic City News that she showed up to volunteer Saturday morning in response to an e-mail from Reverend Ron Rawls asking for volunteers. Seraphin told us that she was provided a walking list and a stack of flyers, but no identification card. She believed the church was responding to a request from the City to collect this information. She says she was told that the results of the canvassing would be turned over to the City; but, when she asked Rawls today, he informed her that the information was provided directly to Todd Neville.
While compassion, assistance, and solidarity are generally prevalent in the aftermath of natural disasters, unscrupulous individuals and organizations also use these tragic events to take advantage of those in need.
After Hurricane Matthew, Mayor Shaver reported that there were many people taken advantage of by door-to-door solicitors seeking repair work and donations to help families in need. She offered a word of caution to residents to protect their personal information, to ask for identification of any solicitor, and to report any suspicious activity.
Since Hurricane Katrina swamped the City of New Orleans in 2005, widespread reports of system failures changed the way all future federal emergency management actions are executed.
Some of the most important lessons learned were adopted by the United States Congress into the “Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006”. One of the great observations made was that there are risks to the integrity of natural disaster operations when federal, state, county and municipal governments establish “rival chains of command”. Today, in an emergency like Hurricane Irma, there is one, unified chain-of-command.
Even though some participants are elected public officials, the management of an emergency incident must adhere to the operational plan approved by the official chain-of-command. Participants are prohibited from using their elected office to individually conduct tandem operations, simply to capitalize on the crisis for personal political gains.
If you have questions or need help here are some important numbers:
- City Police 911 or non-emergency 904.825.1074
- County emergency food, water, or shelter 904.824.5550
- Federal Emergency Management Agency 800.621.3362
- National Disaster Fraud Hotline 866.720.5721
Read more at: Avoiding Fraudulent Charitable Contribution Schemes