The Applied Institute for Disaster Excellence (AIDE) brought the Catholic Charities network and other disaster response partners together in Raleigh to share knowledge, strategize, and strengthen their commitments to disaster preparedness. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh and the Diocese of Raleigh (DOR) were host agencies to hundreds of people, all focused on disaster preparedness.

The fall training is an annual disaster response and preparedness training and aims to build Catholic Charities’ capacity to respond to disasters in communities across the United States and its territories. At the training, day one opened with Bishop Luis Zarama of the Diocese of Raleigh as he welcomed attendees to AIDE 2023 and to Raleigh, North Carolina.

It was 5 days of rigorous training and information. Catholic Charities (DOR) CEO Lisa Perkins said she’s thankful when looking back at last week. “Thank you to all participants, trainers, and partners for contributing to this invaluable training right here in Raleigh. Last week was truly a moment of pride and reward as we hosted roughly 225 participants from more than 60 Catholic Charities agencies, nonprofits, and government partners in training to strengthen our ability to serve those in need in the aftermath of disasters.”

Additional Diocesan parish personnel and partner organizations also attended the training and were involved in various sessions. They focused on topics such as disaster preparedness and relief, communications, fundraising, aid distribution, and volunteer management.

One of those partnering organizations was The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA Deputy Administrator Erik Hooks spoke at the 2023 AIDE training in his home state and said, “As the scope of FEMA’s mission continues to expand in response to increasing disasters, the partnership between the federal government and faith-based organizations is more important than ever.” Hooks also highlighted that Catholic Charities and FEMA are allies in recognition of climate change as a threat to the livelihoods, health, and safety of the planet and all its inhabitants, regardless of creed or country.

Catholic Charities USA President and CEO Kerry Alys Robinson praised the collaborative spirit of Catholic Charities network’s approach to disaster relief. Her thoughts and sentiments were also echoed by leaders of Catholic Charities in the host state.

“We were honored to host over 200 participants and partners from around the country in our home state last week at AIDE 2023! One of those partners was FEMA Deputy Administrator Erik Hooks, whose presence and support continue to reinforce our faith-based and government partnerships to help our communities when they need it most,” said Daniel Altenau, Catholic Charities DOR Director of Communications and Disaster Services.

As part of AIDE 2023, attendees also got a behind-the-scenes look at WRAL TV in Raleigh and learned about station operations and news coverage. WRAL News Anchor and Catholic Charities (DOR) Board Member, Ken Smith lead the group tour of the station. He explained broadcast operations and news coverage especially as it pertains to disasters, breaking news, and emergency response. Altenau said a vital part of training happened outside the walls of the conference. Altenau said, “The news media is a strong ally before, during, and after any disaster. We are fortunate to have Ken Smith as a board member, and we are consistently building media relationships to help disseminate information, engage with the public, and further our mission of providing help and creating hope when people need it most.”

Other site visits included the State Emergency Operations Center, a HAZMAT exercise coordinated by the Duke Healthcare Preparedness Coalition, a Durham Swift Water Rescue Team, and a visit to the NC State Teaching and Visualization Lab. One day after the conclusion of AIDE, powerful thunderstorms and deadly tornadoes struck Tennessee and Kentucky, killing at least six and displacing thousands. The Catholic Charities network quickly mobilized and launched a dedicated fundraising effort, with 100 percent of the money raised directly supporting those suffering in the aftermath of the storms.