Disaster Relief: Do Not Self-deploy

2/17/2020

Seeing images of disaster destruction compels us to want to go help. Your empathy peaked as you hear the tearful stories of people who have lost everything to a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or wildfire.

1. Disaster scenes are, by their very nature, chaotic
People have lost their homes and even the most basic needs such as food and clothing. As they anxiously dig through piece after piece of their damaged or destroyed possessions they are constantly interrupted by the distant whine of emergency sirens or heavy machinery threatening to take the last remnants of their former life with them. Government Agencies, Insurance assessors, and non-profit organizations are criss-crossing the cluttered streets trying to make their assessments and in turn reduce people’s lives into dollars and statistics. And this is when you only have certified disaster response teams doing their work. Imagine if this were combined with tens or hundreds of well-meaning self-deployed volunteers. The chaos would escalate and would certainly get out of hand. Self-deploying limits or even eliminates the effect of your volunteer service.

2. Duplicate and Unnecessary Service
You look at survivors sorting through what is left of their most cherished belongings and your heart sinks. You see the roof over their head sagging or the walls stained from the flood waters. At this point, homeowners may be hopeful that since the floodwaters have receded or the aftershocks have stopped they can safely move back into their homes and pick up life where they left off. Encouraging words from a well-meaning but ill-informed volunteer might reinforce that hope to their detriment by telling them that they can help get them back into their homes. The truth is that often, while the home may look solid, the damage is deeper than the drywall and the mold or hairline cracks have rendered the house unlivable. Or perhaps worse, your assessment of the situation was already made by another agency and your assistance not only hinders future response but negates the assessment by the insurance company making the homeowner ineligible for their claim. Volunteering WITH a certified team helps to ensure that the work that you do is meaningful and effective and not counter-productive.

3. You WILL be turned away by law enforcement
With very few exceptions, disaster zones (especially the most devastating ones) are completely shut off to anyone besides the residents and business owners who are trying to preserve their lives and incomes, law enforcement and first responders, insurance agents, and CERTIFIED disaster response teams. If you are not one of those groups and have not been deployed for official business purposes, law enforcement will most likely turn you away. They do this to prevent looting, preserve or restore order, and provide some level of privacy and security to people who are forced to leave all of their personal belongings out in the open.

Early Response Team Protocol
ERT training and DEPLOYMENT is a collaborative effort between UMCOR and UMVIM. UMCOR has been in contact with leadership of the areas within the disaster and will be on standby once assessments are made and the needs determined.

Do not deploy once the storm has passed unless the invitation from the affected areas has been extended. We do have a deployment procedure for ERTs that needs to be followed. This ensures that the communities have the capacity to accept teams and volunteers and does not place a burden on the local responders. We will keep you updated on our Conference website as we receive information.
  1. ERTs from within the affected districts and conference are deployed first, if available.
  2. When additional ERTs are needed from outside the affected conference they will request additional assistance.
Thank you for following the outlined procedures to not deploy before an invitation is extended.

As soon as it is safe and possible, an invitation will come and will be shared with the Mississippi Conference. In major disasters a Conference will be asking for ERTs, so begin planning for deployment, BUT PLEASE WAIT FOR THE INVITATION!

Early Response Team Training
If you are not trained or party of a team, it’s not too late to schedule an Early Response Team Training. It will be several days after the crest before this activity can begin and ERTs will be needed for several weeks after. Contact Ray Wallace, Early Response Team Coordinator, raywrebel@yahoo.com, for more information about training at your local church or district.

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