North Texas Daily

Disaster relief group offers aid and cooperation

Disaster relief group offers aid and cooperation

Disaster relief group offers aid and cooperation
March 24
00:49 2015

Hannah Ridings / Staff Photographer

Volunteers for the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center parked their retired, white fire truck off campus last week to teach a class about what it takes to get involved in disaster response.

The class encourages students and others to volunteer time, skills and resources to a cause. Currently, the disaster response team has been holding classes on a stateside tour, raising awareness about giving back in times of need.


The Nationwide Disaster Response bus is outfitted with radios going down both sides of the walls. They use these radios to talk to other volunteers in the field.

Retired Fort Worth firefighter Joe Hillis said he saw an emergency response need he decided to help fulfill in 2008 when the organization first started to take shape. Now, he considers himself the lucky one, with the opportunity to speak on behalf of 400 volunteers who form what the organization is known as today.

After ITDRC responded to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Joe Hillis said it made a connection with satellite television provider Dish Network.

“Sandy happened over the holidays,” Joe Hillis said. “So together Dish and ITDRC put the Macy’s Day Parade on every TV in shelters, hospitals and churches.”

The two companies now work together to aid locals affected by disaster and have been increasing their efforts since.


The National Disaster Response bus is well equipped. On either side of the bus there are three desks where volunteers can work, or where people without phone lines can call loved ones.

Wherever ITDRC goes, it is well protected, Joe Hillis said, sometimes even by the National Guard.

Chris Hillis, Joe’s son and UNT alum, teaches the emergency management class to help aspiring volunteers understand what they are signing up for.

“We take all the volunteers we can get,” Chris Hillis said. “Everybody is welcome to help.”

To sign up, students can fill out a form detailing their skills by contacting the ITDRC.


The National Disaster Relief symbol. The response team hopes to build relationships with those affected by a disaster so that when their symbol is seen again people know that help has arrived. 

Sometimes the job is as simple as registering the names of people in need or rolling up cables, Chris Hillis said.

Integrative studies junior Ashley Johnson said she believes it is important for students to volunteer, especially during times of disaster.

“Most of us are continually blessed with a home, food and being able to go to school,” Johnson said. “So many people don’t have these things because of natural disasters.”

Joe Hillis has a rule of thumb for future volunteers.

“I always tell my volunteers to expect the unexpected. You never know what you might end up doing that day. We just try and help,” he said. “You know at the end of the day you get to go home and say, ‘Hey I did something to help.’”

Featured Image: Co-founders Joe Hillis, left, and Chris Hillis, middle, chat with their Central Division Director Al Benson. Benson is one-of-four division directors throughout the United States, while Joe Hand Chris handles direction of the organization. Photos by Hannah Ridings – Staff Photographer

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