Training Proves Critical for Disaster Teams in Van, TX
“The tornados and widespread flooding in Texas this spring has hopefully been a wakeup call to United Methodists in the Texas Annual Conference to realize we need more trained emergency responders,” says Robert Blankinship of First UMC Rusk, who led a team of volunteers onto the scene within days of the tornado in Van, Tx that killed two very faithful UMC leaders in the community. “In a matter of weeks we’ve had back-to-back disasters in Northeast Texas, Central Texas, South Texas.” Robert loves the fact that 20+ of the 110 active members of FUMC Rusk stepped up for training and were available to deploy to Oklahoma. “Our team was one of the first approved to serve in Van,” he adds, “and it was a time I was certainly proud to be a Methodist. We joined other UMC teams from Kaufman and Plano in our green TACOR shirts with chain saws running and wood chips flying.”
The team tarped roofs, cleared brush and helped in any capacity possible. Notes Robert, “All teams had an impressive number of ladies on the team, including one from First UMC Woodville who joined us, so don’t think this work requires anything more than a servant’s heart.” Special thanks go to First UMC Canton for hosting out of town teams that needed accommodations. One of the Rusk volunteers slugging through the mud like a trooper was Sissy Crysup, who also served on the Oklahoma tornado recovery team. “We worked at one residence in Oklahoma weeks after the actual event, but in Van, we were there within 72 hours and helped with the devastation along an entire street,” shares Sissy.
Being a “badged” volunteer is important to Sissy. “I highly recommend the training, she adds, “The one-day Emergency Response training involves reviewing a handbook of explanations on topics such as how to properly stack debris, clean homes, tarp roofs and interact with individuals who have been traumatized,” she adds.