When disaster strikes, who do you call?


Spring is here and we have already had turbulent weather: large hail, high winds and a few small tornados. In the Great Plains area how do we get involved in helping when a disaster has damaged properties and wounded lives?

When a disaster strikes

After a disaster strikes communication at all levels is extremely important. Whoever learns of the disaster first is encouraged to initiate the call and all persons called make sure others in this list are notified. Calls would typically progress as shown in the following image.

A contact list of the Disaster Response Team has been posted to help with early communications. It can be found at greatplainsumc.org/disasterresponsecontacts.

Patience is the key in responding to a disaster. It is important for the emergency services personnel to have the time and space needed to conduct search and rescue operations and secure gas and electric lines before volunteers come in to a disaster-stricken area. This diagram outlines the flow of a disaster response work plan including who does what and when.

When is help requested?

When a community is unable to handle the disaster recovery on their own, United Methodists across the conference are asked to respond. When the disaster is large, the bishop contacts UMCOR for help and is the only one who can ask UMCOR for assistance.

When does help arrive?

As a volunteer it is a time of listening and responding as needs are identified: money, supplies and volunteers. In the early days after a disaster typically only trained responders are allowed into the site. UMC Early Response Teams (ERTs), who have completed the UMCOR training, are the first to serve. After the site security is opened to the public, people trained in Basic Disaster Response come and help. Information about what type of help is needed and where will be posted on the web in the disaster response section.

How long are we involved in the recovery?

The Great Plains disaster response will stay involved to work with and through the affected local community until they are well on their way to recovery.

In the initial relief phase, ERTs help homeowners with installing tarps on roofs, debris removal, cleaning out from floods, tree removal, providing cleaning supplies, bedding kits, hygiene kits, food, beverages, spiritual and emotional care and more. In the recovery phase, volunteers help lead case management, volunteer coordination, and construction to repair and rebuild homes.

What type of disaster planning and response training is available?

  • Early Response Teams. UMCOR certified conference trainers teach an eight-hour course. Classes are organized for groups and churches who request training.
  • Connecting Neighbors. UMCOR class helps families and churches be prepared and to provide a caring Christian response to local disasters. When they have prepared their church families and facility before disaster occurs, they are better able to serve those in their community and world.

The Great Plains Conference Disaster Response Plan has helpful information for planning and responding to disasters.

For more information, to coordinate a class or to report storm damage, contact the Rev. Hollie Tapley, Great Plains Conference disaster response coordinator, at 316-684-0266 or htapley@greatplainsumc.org.

Photo: On May 8, 2009, a severe storm swept through central and southeast Kansas with winds of 80-110 mph, heavy rain and hail. Large trees were split or uprooted by wind and saturated ground. New Albany, in Wilson County, was perhaps the worst hit. One death was reported and several buildings were destroyed, including the United Methodist Church and the town post office, the only two public buildings in town.

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