The Salvation Army is constantly evolving and changing the way it responds to disasters! Due to the impact that this tornado had on the people in this area, The Salvation Army wanted to make the Emotional and Spiritual Care support to be a priority in our initial service delivery. While Emotional and Spiritual Care has always been an understood in our disaster delivery service, the Army is now deploying officers (ministers) and carefully chosen, trained volunteers as Emotional and Spiritual Care Specialists. These ESC personnel are tasked with the care of not only affected people, but also other disaster responders. The Salvation Army sent one of the largest continents of ESC personnel to this disaster response in my memory.
Because of the increased response in this trained personnel, we were able to deploy ESC teams with trucks and other vehicles to affected areas as “spiritual care ground forces.” These ground force teams were able to get into some areas that our mobile feeding units could not get into and offer assistance. Some of the areas were so damaged and difficult to traverse that the ESC teams were forced to walk along roads dragging coolers of cold drinks and snacks. Far from just offering physical comfort, these teams were bringing the love of God to places that had seen such sorrow!
I had a chance to work with these teams for my first two days here in Oklahoma. These dedicated officers and volunteers took to their work like trained soldiers. Every morning, they would go to the distribution warehouse and load up with supplies. From drinks to snacks to candy to small toys, they were loading up “ammunition of love” to be shared with everyone they came in contact with! They prayed as they walked! They prayed as they talked! They spoke hope to people who did not have any hope! The days were long! Some of the teams had to seek shelter during inclement weather. There were sunburns and tired feet, exhaustion and emotional wear. But, these faithful soldiers trudged on and brought hope, peace, and love to the people of this land.
Pray for the people of Oklahoma! Pray for those who are helping! Pray for those who will be staying and helping in the future!
God Bless the people of Oklahoma!
God Bless the work of the responders!
And, God Bless The Salvation Army!
Today, I met a wonderful lady at the Little Axe Multi-Agency Resource Center. I have been doing emergency disaster assistance casework. I asked her if I could share her story.
May 19th was a special, but ordinary day for her family. Her husband was in Shawnee with the grandmother getting ready for the birthday party for their 16-year old. While they were away from their home, disaster struck! A friend called her from a storm cellar and told her that everything was gone!
Her husband tried for two days to get back to the site of their home but was not allowed. When they finally got to the site, they saw that everything was gone. It was a total loss!
Newalla, OK is a small rural community in east Oklahoma County, south of Oklahoma City and near Norman. Sandy has lived on that property for 14 years. Each and every one of the five children was born and raised in that home. She has lived in this area since the 4th grade. This was her home!
She said that when she returned she was horrified. Everything that she knew and everything that she owned was takes away but the storm! They were worried for their pets. The Bibb family has four dogs, a cat, and a bird. Fortunately, the dogs and cat have been located, but all they could find of the bird was the smashed cage.
What makes this family’s situation even worse is that the danger is not over!Right now, they are not in danger of tornadoes taking whatever is left. Their fear right now is the looters that have been going over their property taking whatever they pleased. A local church brought them some tents, cots and toys for their children. When they returned, the only thing left were a few toys!
The family is trying to make the best of it and staying out on their property. Their three-year old has not returned to the site because their is still broken glass and dangerous debris.
“I don’t have a home. Tornado came and ‘blewed’ it away!” – three-year old disaster survivor
The family has been working on clearing their property. They have been hesitant about allowing groups to help because they are unsure of their intentions.
The three-year old is still maintaining a good outlook on the situation. If you ask her about going home, she will look at you and say with a smile, “I don’t have a home. Tornado came and ‘blewed’ it away!”
When I asked this lady if I could share her story, she said that I could, but she began to tear up a little!I asked her what she was feeling and she said this:
“I just want a home for my family! A nice place for them to live!”
This family has been working with FEMA to make that happen. The Salvation Army was able to offer her financial assistance to help her family with their emergency needs. She was extremely grateful and thanked me over and over.
Although she declined to have her picture, I wish I could show you the look of resilience in her face. After meeting her, I am beginning to understand what #OklahomaStrong really means!
We had prayer together before she left for which she was very grateful for! She said that was one of the first times that someone offered to pray with her during this experience. She said that prayer was the best thing! I agree!
It has been all over the media! Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms all over the central Oklahoma area have been causing some major damage and have even claimed lives! The EF-5 tornado that came through Newcastle and Moore was highly destructive. The recent tornado through El Reno has now been labeled as an EF-5 as well being called the widest tornado on the planet.While the tornado from Moore has captured the hearts of the people due to the increased media attention, there were smaller towns that were deeply affected by these natural disasters.
Having been sent out by the Incident Command, I have spent the last five days in places like Shawnee (Pottawatomie County), Carney (Lincoln County), and Little Axe (Cleveland County). While the May 19th storm may not have been as big as the May 20 or 31, the impact on these smaller communities is still great! Little Axe is more than 25 minutes outside of Norman. The MARC (multi-agency resource center) is located at the local elementary school. Relief workers and responders are having to drive in from Oklahoma City and Norman to provide relief and assistance.
With more significant weather coming into this area this week, these people are desperately in need of relief and safety!
Prayer for the people of Oklahoma, all of the the people of Oklahoma!
Although I am sorry about the circumstances, this disaster helped reunite me with some old friends that I have not seen in a while. Lieutenants Philip and Elaine Canning are the corps officer (ministers) for The Salvation Army in Shawnee, OK. I have known Philip and Elaine before they were Philip and Elaine. We worked on camp staff together when we were kids.
They are a vibrant, young couple who truly loves their communities. Philip and Elaine are responsible for Pottawatomie, Seminole, and Lincoln counties in Oklahoma. Parts of their counties were affected by the tornadoes on May 19, 2013. The Cannings have been working around the clock since the tornadoes to serve OTHERS in their community. I was honored to have the opportunity to give them some relief for a few days.
Please remember all of the people affected by these natural disasters!
Today I served for the third day in the MARC in Shawnee, OK. The term MARC stands for Multi-Agency Resource Center. Sponsored and hosted by the American Red Cross, the MARC is a wonderful opportunity and place for many agencies to come together. Because of the stream-lined intake process, all of the agencies who participate can get clients through the process of casework more efficiently. The MARC here in Shawnee assists clients through this experience and helps them to begin to rebuild their lives. serving in Oklahoma.
The process here starts with the American Red Cross Red Line. The Red Line is staffed by highly trained Red Cross workers who help clients to record who they are and what happened to them. After the clients are evaluated and assisted by the Red Line, they are escorted by an ambassador through a quick medical check. Following the medical check, the client is escorted into the Resource Room where all of the partner agencies are present at various tables.
Here is a list of the agencies who have a presence at the Shawnee MARC:
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Relief
Legal Aid Services
Oklahoma Health Care Authority
Chickasaw Nation Health System
Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief
All of these agencies are offering a variety of services to help the residents begin the long process of recovery.
The MARC is a great example of agencies coming together for a common cause and making a difference in the lives of people. These people find themselves at one of the toughest moments of their lives. They have had most everything taken from them and their homes and lives bared for a national audience. These agencies come together to give them some relief and help to restore that dignity in a safe and secure environment.
“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV).
In every fight or conflict, troops get weary and tired. Fatigue sets in and makes continuing more and more difficult. After someone has been serving for a time, it is time to bring in some new vitality and spirit. You need a fresh infusion of service and love.
Let me introduce you to Pam Wedel. Pam served today at the MARC (Multi-Agency Resource Center) in Shawnee, OK. Pam is relatively new in her volunteering with The Salvation Army. She was looking for an opportunity to help out! She says that this is a good time in her life to extend her circle of people that she serves and helps. A woman of faith, Pam has interviewed and prayed with many inidividuals and families at the Shawnee MARC. She is always there with a winning smile and a williing spirit! She makes everyone feel welcome as they come to the table to talk to The Salvation Army.
And, you may wonder what her reward is…let’s ask Pam herself…
One of the unfortunate things about disaster services is that there are times that while serving in a disaster another one can follow right behind it. And, although they are still assessing the situation from today's storms, we had one challenging night weather-wise here in Oklahoma!
Picture from Oklahoma skies on May 31, 2013
And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
Casting Crowns shares this song with us. Even while we go through some of the most difficult time of our lives, we can still praise God for His faithfulness.
2 Samuel 22:3 NIV says, “my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me.”
We truly have a God who wants to protect us from all of the “storms” of life! And, even when a storm comes along, He is still there with us!
Greetings to the South from Wilkes-Barre, PA Corps Officers, Captains Doug & Patti Richwine:
We met several wonderful people here in the Wilkes-Barre, PA area. One of these people is Stanley Owca from the Brookside neighborhood.
Another person we had a chance to talk to was Gregory Germek. Mr. Germek is used to helping others in disaster and never thought it would be himself who needed help.
As well as the wonderful people here in Pennsylvania, we also had a chance to work with some great people from other places. One of these people is DJ Burleigh from Virginia. DJ was demobilized and sent hoe this morning, but before he left, he shared some of his own experience here.
One of the important processes in a disaster response is the demobilization, or better known as debriefing. Demobilization is a process where trained Emotional & Spiritual Care workers meet with every responder to give them a chance to share with someone about their experiences. It also allows that person to possibly get feelings and emotions out.
This process is available to all levels of a disaster response team. From Incident Commanders to canteen employees, The Salvation Army sees the need to allow people the chance to share their experiences and receive prayer and a blessing.
Part of the difficulty in any disaster situation is knowing when to hand the work off to the local corps and community. Too soon can lay too much responsibility on the local relief. Too late can extend expenses and resources further then they can go.
In recent days, we have discussed the various phases of the disaster response process. One of the important phases in this process is the transition of one incident command to another team.
One of the strengths of The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Response process is its’ ability to transfer the responsibility of command and distribution to other officers, workers, and volunteers. A typical disaster response deployment is 14 days. Of those 14 days, two days are for travel. There is one day set aside to travel to the disaster and one day to return to your original location. The 12 remaining days consist of two components: active days and shadowing days. The first and last day of this 12 day period are for shadowing the officer, employee, or volunteer that you are replacing.
Contacts in the community, location of resources, and names of people who can assist in the disaster are important. It is not effective for the previous incident command team to start a competent response and them not have that work continue at the same level of effectiveness.
Although comically portrayed to the right, Major Ed Binnix is handing over the responsibilities to our new incident commander, Captain Todd Mason. Captain Mason, a veteran EDS responder, has been moved from the Planning Chief position to the Incident Commander. His former position of Planning Chief has become a low priority since all of the future plans and strategies have now been put into place.
Captain Mason and the new incident command team will be responsible for the demobilization of the disaster response and its’ hand-off to the local command and divisional headquarters.
One of the more overlooked resources that are necessary for action within a disaster response is the volunteer. Pam from Vidalia, GA is pictured here receiving her new “badge” from the previous Operations Chief, Lt. Jason Burns. Pam has bee heavily-involved in the work of The Salvation Army in disaster back at home.
Recognizing her service and request for the badge, the incident command team wanted to improve morale and joy within the overall team. One of the critical tasks of the Incident Command Team is the need to support all of the personnel with their command.
Volunteers are always needed for minor and major responses. You can register at disaster.salvationarmyusa.org to sign-up to volunteer and attend classes. You can also find out more information about The Salvation Army by following @SalArmyEDS on Twitter.
Following is a great interview with Michael Bush from Virginia. Michael is recently returned from disaster response in Virginia. He is always willing to help more people.
Included below our pictures of some of our incident command team having a good time together. At times, laughter and fun helps the response process and gives the team the ability to face the next day.