'Disaster junkies' form backbone of US safety net

JAY REEVES Associated Press Published:

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- There's a group of people who travel the country helping out after tragedies like the tornadoes that hit Alabama and Missouri last year, and they have a nickname: "Disaster junkies."

Rebuilding after storms is becoming a growth industry as the United States is slammed by more natural disasters, and leaders say the nation's recovery network functions as well as it does because of this backbone of volunteers.

Some are like Sacramento, Calif., resident David Elliott, who has traveled three times to Alabama since the 2011 twisters.

The nonprofit National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster says a core group of around 300 people spend at least six months each year performing such work. The group estimates several thousand more people like Elliott make several trips annually helping out.