AFA Vice Chairman for Field Operations, Gavin MacAloon, lost his on-base home at Tyndall AFB, Fla., to Hurricane Michael. Photo: Courtesy of Gavin MacAloon
When Hurricane Michael ravaged Tyndall AFB, Fla., last October, the local chapter of the Air Force Association swept into action. Edward W. Hood, the chapter president, became the boots on the ground, helping the nonprofit Air Warrior Courage Foundation distribute about $107,000 to 215 needy USAF households.
Working with Gavin MacAloon, a chapter member and AFA’s Vice Chairman for Field Operations, Hood also helped the foundation provide aid to hurricane evacuees who sought refuge at the Air Force Enlisted Village, an organization primarily focused on aiding the widows of retired Air Force enlisted airmen.
MacAloon, a civilian Air Force employee, was living at Tyndall when Hurricane Michael hit and lost his home. But as soon as displaced residents were allowed to return to base to retrieve possessions, MacAloon met with Wing Commander, Col. Brian Laidlaw, and a chaplain, as well as affected airmen. When the Air Force Enlisted Village deployed an aid truck with supplies for displaced Tyndall residents, he led them to displaced families who had fled the base.
“It’s not a powerhouse chapter,” MacAloon said. “But that didn’t matter here, and it’s a perfect example of how an AFA chapter—just by using your name, getting your connections—can make a difference in people’s lives.”
What did Hood and MacAloon learn? The answers aren’t so different from any other kind of preparedness. But they are lessons every chapter can apply to ensure they’re ready to step up when disaster strikes.
- Keep membership rosters up to date and have a communications plan in place. Hood said that when he deployed a mass email to his chapter’s membership, he only heard back from 2 percent of recipients. Many people on his membership roster were no longer active members and had long since moved away.
- Have a plan for collecting donations—before disaster strikes. Hood opened a PayPal account before the storm when he had “a gut feeling” the chapter might need one. It was a saving grace for the chapter and community, allowing AFA National to rally support and direct donors to those in need. That helped the chapter amass $10,000 in donations.
- Be ready with thank-yous and tax receipts. “Have a system, platform, or software that streamlines your tax receipts,” Hood said, in order to generate thank-you notes and receipts with the click of a button. When homes are lost and you’re working around the clock, paperwork should be the least of your worries.
Hood and MacAloon said chapters should also assemble their own experiences and advice and share those after-action reports to different types of emergencies with fellow AFA leaders around the country. You never know when—or where—the next disaster will strike.