New TACCOR Training Focusing on Survivors: Learn to be a Spiritual ‘Paramedic’

Date Posted: 5/8/2014

Trained first responders are essential to the post-disaster recovery process, but survivors really need designated listeners at a time like this. A new type of TACCOR training will be offered June 20 to equip new CARE teams focused on listening – and connecting traumatized individuals to the physical and spiritual resources they need.
Imagine the emotional nightmare that would follow if you learned your home, cherished possessions or loved ones were lost in a disaster. One minute your life is moving forward, and the next it is hurtling in reverse. Would your response be: anger toward God? Shock? Disbelief? Depression?
In the immediate chaos and aftermath, who might there to help? Thanks to a new program of the Texas Annual Conference Committee on Relief (TACCOR), there is a plan and accompanying training to start developing CARE Teams (Caregivers Actively Responding in Emergency), and a new training geared toward helping survivors of crisis. These are faith-based, on-going teams trained to provide spiritual and emotional care following disasters via District Disaster Response Coordinators in each of the nine districts.
“While we have been deploying Early Response and Recovery Teams to the scene of disasters for years, the CARE Team is new to The Texas Annual Conference,” notes Rev. Tommy Myrick of Christ United Methodist, College Station, who serves as a volunteer Chaplain for the local police department and Texas Task Force 1. Following floods, tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes, for example, ERTs are tasked to help minimize additional damage to homes already affected by a disaster. Adds Tommy, “ERTs are trained in spiritual and emotional care, but they are typically busy elsewhere.”
Designated Listeners
CARE Team coordinator Rev. Noel Denison likes to think of the CARE Team as being the front line of spiritual and emotional care in any crisis event.  According to Rev. Noel Denison, “It is the CARE Team’s goal to be available to take the presence, hope and love of Jesus Christ to survivors, no matter the crisis. We will do all we can to reduce human suffering in the aftermath of a disaster by providing a caring Christian presence as well as information via a process of assessment.” Adds Tommy, “I place an emphasis on crisis as opposed to disaster because CARE Teams may respond to any local crisis situation where spiritual and emotional care are needed, such as a school shooting, the suicide of a student, or a large house fire involving multiple dwellings, as well as tornadoes, wildfires, floods, or hurricanes. Unlike ERTs, who require days of planning, equipment, and volunteers, a CARE Team may consist of two trained and credentialed team members hopping in a car and driving to the scene of the event and immediately giving hugs, smiles, and listening ears to the survivors.”
Trainings Offered in June
Training is required to serve as a member of a CARE team and includes UMCOR’s Basic CARE Team Course, psychological first aid, and Safe Sanctuary. In addition, CARE Team members agree to a background check and to abide by the spiritual care “Points of Consensus” of NVOAD and the Church World Service “Standards of Care for Disaster Response.” The next training will be held:
Friday, June 20 at Huntsville First UMC from 10am-4pm. 
District Leader training on Saturday, June 21 from 8am-noon.
Register via the TACCOR website 
Emotional/Spiritual Paramedics Needed
CARE Teams do not provide traditional individual ongoing counseling. Noel explains that their purpose is to reduce survivors’ sense of being “alone” and connect them with long-term disaster recovery systems, providing support and information about the recovery process and available services. Simultaneously, they can gather information and broad surveys for those making decisions about disaster recovery.
 “This is a great opportunity to really be the church,” adds Noel. “We are happy to train anyone with a passion to help; however, those who are ideally suited to serve on a CARE Team include active and retired clergy, Stephen Ministers, parish nurses, mental health providers who are active in their United Methodist churches, and other persons trained in other crisis intervention models who want a deeper theological application of their skills.”
From the Trenches
TAC CARE Team member Lee Thornton knows firsthand how these types of teams will be able to address the emotional needs that amplify following a crisis. Retired from the refinery business, she never imagined herself in this role, but after stepping out in faith, she was able to provide comfort to many as a case worker after Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf Coast. “As people find out their homes are demolished,” she says, “they need a listening ear, someone to point them to resources and possibly even to pray with them. These CARE Teams are going to be a blessing to many.”
For a CARE Team “job description” visit
Contact Noel Denison, 713-464-1173, or for more information.