Disaster preparedness and response workshops offered during Mission 200 celebrations

Disaster preparedness and response workshops offered during Mission 200 celebrations


When disasters happen, local churches can provide early response to help their communities. They can do this best if they have prepared in advance. This basic understanding that disaster response is local, forms the foundations for UMCOR’s (United Methodist Committee on Relief) disaster preparedness and response efforts. So how can individuals and churches be prepared to serve their communities with compassion in times of need?

There will be two workshops presented at the Crossing Boundaries: Partnerships in Mission events in October to offer some concrete ways to help. The events will be held October 5 at Roseburg UMC, October 12 at Tigard UMC and October 26 at Boise First UMC. Visit the missions page on the Conference website for registration, cost and schedule information.

  • Disaster Preparedness will invite participants to look at their own readiness and their church's readiness for disaster. Through the use of real-life scenarios, participants will be challenged to see how they and their church would have reacted to the disaster situations churches in the Oregon-Idaho Conference faced recently. An overview of “Connecting Neighbors” will be shared so participants may determine if their church would like to organize a training session. Participants will receive handouts that can help individuals and communities better prepare for a disaster. And best of all, each participant will receive an item to start or add to their emergency go bags.
  • Disaster Response: Early Response Team (ERT) programs will be outlined in the second workshop option.  An overview of the requirements and training required for participation will be shared. Participants will have a chance to see how ERTs prepare for deployment and see the tools of an ERT volunteer.  ERT’s who have deployed in the past year will share their experience from their mission. Participants will leave with a better understanding of the program and how they might be involved in this outreach mission.
Through the UMCOR curriculum “Connecting Neighbors: Disaster Ready Congregations” a local church is provided guidance on how to prepare their congregants and church buildings to be resilient following a disaster. Congregations can plan ways to respond to their neighbors in helpful, cooperative and caring ways on behalf of the church and the spirit of Jesus Christ. There are ways for small, medium and large congregations and people of various ages and abilities to help. UMCOR trained facilitators take the church through three Modules 1) Ready Congregants 2) Ready Churches 3) Ready Response.
  1. Ready Congregants focuses on preparing individuals and families to be disaster ready. Prepared people are in a better position to help others in their church family and community.
  2. Ready churches emphasize the importance of protecting church property and the people within the property, before and immediately following a disaster, and of appropriate use of church property in disaster response.
  3. Ready response encourages churches to realistically explore their capacity for various disaster ministries and to consider ways to engage community partners.
Within the Oregon-Idaho Conference there are several examples of churches providing needed assistance following a disaster.  A few years ago, John Day UMC opened their doors to provide clothing and needed supplies after a wildfire swept through the nearby canyon.  Last October when a snowstorm knocked out power, Valley UMC in Veneta was able to provide comfort, shelter and food for those out in the cold.

“We decided to open with or without power as there was no other shelter active in the community.   We are a designated shelter for the community of Veneta.  We were the only shelter active during the storm in our community,” said pastor Deena Wolfe. “The other social service agencies that provided services such as food (two day a week hot meals and food pantry) were closed during the storm – so for some guests our dinner and breakfast provided them emergency food. We had community members who were without power for as much as a week.”

In the same snowstorm last winter, Oakridge UMC provided a warm place to gather and a hot meal.  Even though their power was out, a fireplace in the fellowship hall and barbecues on the patio comforted those most vulnerable in their community.  All of this was possible because things were in place before the disasters struck.

The UMVIM program that puts boots on the ground after a disaster is Early Response Team’s (ERT’s). UMCOR certifies trainers for each conference who then teach an eight-hour curriculum to interested volunteers. Volunteers are trained on aspects of relief such as mucking out houses, debris removal, tarping roofs, and assessing damage. The curriculum also cover safety and working together as a team.  The end goal is for teams to provide a caring Christian presence,  to prevent further damage to a family’s personal property, to observe survivor’s needs and report these to the local authorities and possibly the most important is to be the caring ministry of “listeners” who will help the survivors begin to heal.

UMVIM provides the guidance, organization, and opportunities for ERT’s to deploy on missions after a disaster. Teams are called together and organized by Larry Johnson, ERT conference coordinator and Louise Keinzle, UMVIM conference coordinator when a call for help comes. These coordinators along with those in the Western Jurisdiction have provided help throughout the U.S. and its territories.  Currently the Or-Id Conference has 49 ERT volunteers trained.  In the past year some of these volunteers have joined teams to serve in North Carolina, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Saipan.   A training on August 24 in Jerome, Idaho, will add 20 new ERT volunteers to the roster.

In the last couple of years, the Conference Disaster Response Coordinators from the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area have worked together supporting each other’s needs for volunteers. These multi-conference teams have allowed our volunteers that otherwise would not have had the opportunity to serve on a mission trip to help out. This interaction between conferences has also led to joint training and planning meetings that are helping to build the disaster preparedness and response programs in each conference.

Register for the UMVIM/ERT workshop at the most convenient event location and earn ways to put faith and compassion into action.

Registration and more information is available at www.umoi.org/missions.


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