|Training helps Florida churches prepare for storms|
Florida United Methodists simulate how to respond if a
tornado hits their community during a disaster ministry training session
in Moore Haven, Fla. A UMNS photo courtesy of the Florida Conference
Disaster Recovery Ministry.
A UMNS Report
By Steven Skelley*
March 31, 2008
With weather researchers predicting an active 2008 hurricane season
along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, United Methodists in Florida are
preparing to help their neighbors weather whatever storms might strike.
Church disaster relief coordinators prepare as weather researchers predict an active hurricane season along the Atlantic Coast.
Initial forecasts predict above-average hurricane activity, with 13
named storms and seven hurricanes. Three of those hurricanes are
expected to be Category 3 or higher. The official hurricane season is
June through November.
"We know we will have disasters eventually," said the Rev. Thom
Street, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church of Moore Haven.
Moore Haven was one of two locations in 2007 that offered a pilot
training program called "Community Arise: Basic Disaster Ministry
Training" through the Florida Annual (regional) Conference Disaster
However, disasters don't mean hurricanes only. Churches often are
called upon to help in the aftermath of tornadoes, flooding and manmade
"The better prepared we are as a church, the more quickly we’ll be able to reach out to those who are hurting," Street said.
Churches wanting to be a lifeline for their neighbors have other
opportunities to learn all they need to mobilize. This year, another
session was held in March, and two more are planned.
"We have some trainings coming up over the next couple of months in
various locations in the conference that are geared toward providing a
good overview of disaster for churches," said Pam Garrison, manager of
the conference’s disaster recovery ministry and staff liaison to the
Florida Conference United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.
The 2007 events were well received by participants from both United
Methodist churches and other denominations, according to Garrison.
Annette Reyes-Burnsed attended the first pilot training, held in Lake
City. As a staff member of Community of Faith United Methodist Church
in Davenport, she said it was great training for office workers, church
staff people and volunteers who provide physical works such as clearing
branches and other debris.
Beth Long, a member of Vamo United Methodist Church in Sarasota,
drove three hours to attend the second training in Moore Haven. She
learned where to go to get funds and supplies to help people in
distress. The training also offered advice on setting up a phone tree to
contact and check on church members who may have been affected.
"The better prepared we are as a church, the more quickly we’ll be able to reach out to those who are hurting."The one-day
training is based in part on "Community Arise: A Disaster Ministry
Curriculum," which was developed by Church World Services in
collaboration with other faith-based organizations, including the United
Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Lutheran Disaster Services,
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Catholic Charities and other groups
providing disaster response.
–The Rev. Thom Street
The training is just one way the conference’s disaster recovery
ministry is working to fulfill its mission to effectively manage
resources—information, supplies, volunteers and financial
assistance—available to churches when disasters occur. Staff and
volunteers work closely with district and church disaster coordinators
and outside relief agencies to coordinate those resources and make sure
lines of communication are open and clear.
UMCOR, in its role as the global humanitarian aid organization of The
United Methodist Church, is a partner in those efforts, providing
assistance in planning, preparation and disaster response. UMCOR also
provides grants that supplement donations from churches and individuals,
funding much of the conference’s disaster response work.
Physical, emotional and spiritual care
The goal of upcoming training events is to teach church members "how
to identify and address unmet needs of all survivors, particularly
people who were vulnerable before a disaster, and how to provide a
larger vision of life that includes emotional and spiritual care, as
well as physical rebuilding to assist in long-term recovery of those in
need," according to the Community Arise training Web site.
It’s designed to give church members a practical foundation for
responding to disasters in their community in cooperation with other
churches, emergency management officials and the conference’s disaster
recovery team. The training also is geared toward helping people
understand the importance of communicating and collaborating to meet the
needs of disaster survivors and of being the church in the midst of
Garrison and other disaster recovery staff are quick to note that
neither the Florida Conference nor UMCOR are first responders after a
storm or disaster.
Trained professionals—firefighters, police, paramedics and emergency
medical technicians, and county, state and federal personnel—are
responsible for first response. Only after they have secured an area and
invited other groups to assist can the conference disaster response
team deploy trained volunteers and teams to begin the relief
process—cleanup, debris removal, information, referral and spiritual
care—and the more challenging phase of long-term recovery.
Upcoming conference-sponsored training sessions are planned for May
17 at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples and June 7 at
Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Margate. There is no cost for the
training. To register, go to http://www.flumc2.org/page.asp?PKValue=1377.
*Skelley is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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