Colorado Has A Plan
Colorado's own catastrophic weather event occurred four years ago this week when eight people were killed and 20,000 homes were destroyed in the 2013 Colorado Front Range Flood. In the wake of this unprecedented event, Colorado's legal community came together to identify legal service gaps and provide access to legal services to the most vulnerable Coloradans. Even before the rain started to fall, Colorado had worked with the ABA Young Lawyers Division’s Disaster Legal Services (DLS) to create a Colorado Disaster Legal Response Manual.
FEMA provides disaster legal services in conjunction with state and local bar associations, through a Memorandum of Understanding entered into with the ABA YLD. Once President Obama declared certain flooded portions of Colorado to be a natural disaster, the ABA YLD was charged with setting up a helpline within forty-eight hours.
On September 17, 2013, after a flurry of calls and e-mail exchanges, a group of bar leaders, along with attorneys and staff from several legal associations, conducted a conference call on how the CBA could participate in assisting flood victims. Representatives from CLS, the Colorado Legal Aid Foundation, the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, the Association of Corporate Counsel, Metro Volunteer Lawyers, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Spanish-Speaking Lawyers, CBA sections and committees, and many local bar associations developed a concentrated relief effort.
The result was a robust website and helpline which connected victims with volunteer attorneys who specialized in the area of law in which they needed legal assistance. The website and helpline served nearly 500 victims in its first three months of operation. In total, 350 Colorado lawyers answered the call to serve as task force members, volunteer attorneys, and organizers of this relief effort.
Look For The Helpers
In these times of uncertainty I am reminded of the words of Fred Rogers. Fred often told the story of when he was a child and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”