Wanted: Host Site Facilities for Emergency Aid
Fewer than 50 of the TAC’s 700 churches are approved as emergency facilities so Disaster Response Coordinator DeWitt Cox wants to change that. Read about the levels of service and consider how your congregation might help – by just being ready and able.
When disasters and emergencies happen, Response Coordinator DeWitt Cox knows firsthand it is too late to start planning at that point. “We hardly have one minute to jump into action,” he says, “so it is mandatory that our potential shelters be up to date to meet our required protocol. To do that, we have policies, processes, procedures and recommended partners in place to guide and protect our churches.”
DeWitt is currently working with Jessica Debalski, Regional Emergency Services Manager to help existing resource churches stay in compliance. If training of management or volunteer personnel is required, she will set up training or supply on-line services to bring churches up to the standards needed to serve in an emergency. “The last time we needed a church to serve as a shelter, it was 2011 and Texas was battling wild fires,” recalls DeWitt “so, most churches are just out of practice.”
Church Property as a Temporary Shelter
The Texas Annual Conference strongly urges all of its member churches to follow certain guidelines for opening its facilities to evacuees from or survivors of an incident. Guidelines such as:
· Prepare your facility to become an American Red Cross (ARC) Shelter. Find on-site accommodations that meet their requirements or modify existing ones to their specifications.
· Acquire ARC Shelter Certification and allow them to control occupancy and general operation which includes shouldering the liability.
· Have the ARC train church volunteers to manage and operate a shelter and keep a database on those volunteers.
· If facilities change in a way that would offer survivors less than what the ARC certified you to have, check with them on how that might affect your status.
Explains DeWitt, “Churches that do not qualify as an ARC shelter or have the personnel to perform such a service, are still desperately needed as Host Team Facilities. The requirements are much less stringent to provide hospitality to teams of workers that come into our conference from distant districts, yet this service is critically important.”
Hosting Response Teams on Church Property
Each local United Methodist Church agreeing to house teams, follows TACCOR rules regarding maximum numbers of team members who can be housed, what the accommodations will be, (i.e. a choir room, a gym, or the sanctuary), availability of cooking facilities, shower facilities, and rules related to Safe sanctuary training. Each host church provides incoming volunteers with information about the facility and area, and some provide trained volunteers to join in the disaster effort.
Get trained NOW
“When disaster strikes, we have to go with those we have trained,” adds DeWitt. “That's when everyone wants training all of a sudden but, we have a disaster to manage, and can’t stop to do training. "If you want to be able to help at the site of the disaster, become an ERT member via the upcoming training sessions below."
Ultimately, the Board of Trustees at each local United Methodist Church must approve the final decision to house incoming ERT teams. Please report to TACCOR, via on-line application, your desire to house incoming teams. Information is available at the website: taccor.org.
ARC site Training: Wildwood UMC, Magnolia on August 10th.
Early Response Team Trainings:
August 10th @ First UMC, Dickinson
August 24th @ Memorial Drive UMC, Houston
September 7 @ Christ UMC, East Houston
September 21st @ First UMC, Lufkin
Registration information at http://taccor.org/training.htm