Day 7 of Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Response – Wilkes-Barre, PA Area Flooding

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.

Connie Jones (right) being demobilized by Captain Art Fultz and Lt. Valentina Cantu

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.

Connie Jones greets a younger disaster victim
DJ Burleigh and "his" canteen
Connie Jones walking 92 year old flood victim out to his car

Day 6 of Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Response – Wilkes-Barre, PA Area Flooding

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.

Captain Mason accepts command from Major Binnix

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.

Pam (Vidalia) receives her first EDS "badge" from Lt. Jason Burns

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 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.

Last "decompression dinner" with combined teams

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.

Captain Patrick Richmond (right) has heard all of Lt. Jason Burns' (left) stories
I am the walrus! Coo-coo-catchoo! - Captain Patrick Richmond
New Incident Commander, Captain Mason's first order - a massage. Also pictured is Lt. Jonathan Howell
Micah becomes the new Operations Chief

Day 5 of Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Response – Wilkes-Barre, PA Area Flooding

The area around the Wilkes-Barre, PA general area is beginning to see some return to normalcy. A lot of neighborhoods have power and basic services. We have seen more decreases in feeding on mobile units.  Two canteens were sent out today. Unit 2 was sent to Plainsville & West Nanticoke, and unit 5 went to Shickshinny, Maconaqua, and Wapwallopen.  These more rural areas still represent significant needs.  We will maintain our current feeding schedule through tomorrow.

We had our first day of S.A.F.A.C. (Salvation Army Flood Assistance Center).  The SAFAC provided food boxes, clothing vouchers, and merchandise cards to 88 people.  Our casework staff and pastoral care teams were on-hand to assist clients.

After clients for the flood relief have registered with the welcome desk, they are escorted over to the waiting area.  At the waiting area, our pastoral care officers were on-hand to offer comfort and guidance to the individuals and families.  Lt. Valentina Cantu (pictured right) is spending time playing with a child of a disaster victim and is herself a disaster victim.  Lt. Cantu spent several minutes playing with the girl and reading to her.  After a few moments at the provided kid’s activity station, the little girl proudly walked around the corps gym showing everyone her sticker tatoos.  It was one way to bring a small amount of joy into a person’s life.

Connie Jones (Service Extension Director from Georgia) is pictured here assisting a client to navigate through the paperwork process.  Connie is an experienced disaster relief worker for The Salvation Army and cooks the only peach cobbler that I will actually eat!

Her and another director, Sandy Roberts, were originally assigned to Incident Command as cooks to support the mobile feeding operations.  In the course of discovering the path of our relief, the casework experience of Mrs. Jones and Ms. Roberts allowed them to be vital in the intake process.

Incident Commander – Major Ed Binnix

Emotional & Spiritual Care Lead – Major Lloyd Kerns

Assistant PIO (Public Information Officer) – Andrea Halsey

Day 1 & 2 of Emergency Disaster Service (EDS) Deployment – Wilks-Barre, PA

On September 17, 2011, I was deployed along with 40 other people from the state of Georgia to the Wilks-Barre, Pennsylvania flood response.

I flew out of Albany, GA at 6:00am and arrived in Philadelphia a little after 12 noon.  My original deployment assignment was the Canteen Operation Coordinator.  My assignment is to coordinate the activities of 7 mobile feeding units and their crews.  We were originally sending crews from Wyoming County to Hazleton.  A canteen unit is able to cook and deliver food to remote or local areas.

With meals, bags of ice, and bottled water, our canteen crews were able to deliver cleanup kits (picture left) to these families.  A cleanup kit contains bleach, cleaner/degreaser, broom, scrubber, sponges, gloves, and mask to assist in the cleaning of an area.  All of these items are available free to all of the people who come to the window.  The Salvation Army is available to offer physical support in every way a person might need it.

Also, loaded on many of the canteens is a Salvation Army Emotional and Spiritual Care worker.  With the meals and physical supplies offered to everyone who needs it, The Salvation Army is also looking for the emotional and spiritual well-being of the individual.  People are being prayed with, lives are being changed, change is being made, good is being done!

Canteens have become a welcome addition to many of the communities in which they have been ministering at!

Disaster is a lot of hard work, a lot of last minute decisions.  Dealing with consequences of the decisions we made and the consequences of unavailable events comprises a lot of the management of disaster services.  It is also a chance to work with some of the finest people in the world.  Some of the people who are the unsung heroes of disasters are Lt. Dan Nelson and Capt. Marion Platt (pictured right).  Lt. Dan Nelson is part of the Incident Command System.  His assignment is Finance & Administration.  He is responsible for all of the financial decisions, recording, accounting, statistical reporting, and personnel.  He has a very difficult job.  He has to manage not only the money and donations, but also the care, feeding, and transportation of over 50 disaster workers and volunteers.

Also, in the picture on the right is Marion Platt.  Captain Platt is the Team Leader from the Georgia Division.  Marion is responsible for the care and disposition of all of the forces from the state of Georgia.

Disaster responders are called from many different areas.  Along with our forces from Georgia is a great team from the Kentucky/Tennessee Division.  Lt. Nelson is one of those officers.  They have been instrumental in setting the tone for the response and are ultimately responsible for the success of the disaster up until this point.  Our Incident Commander, Major Ed Binnix, is a veteran field officer and an experienced disaster specialist.  We have been fortunate to have his wisdom and expertise as we move forward.

I would ask that you pray for those who have been affected in this disaster.  Pray for those of us who have responded to God and The Salvation Army’s call to respond!  Pray for those we left behind to keep the “home fires burning.”

Sol Deo Gloria!