Disaster training provided to community

The Salvation Army in Bakersfield, Calif., trains local professionals in disaster response.


Upon arriving in Bakersfield, Calif. as the corps officer and county coordinator, Captain David Ebel learned that the community was concerned about disaster response. Both the Bakersfield City Fire Department and the Kern County Fire Department recruited him as chaplain, and the Kern County Mental Health Disaster Oversight Committee, K-CIRT, selected him for their committee. With two earthquake faults and a dam as potential disasters, emergency preparation was crucial.

Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) was one of the needs. Ebel, who had attended The Salvation Army’s Basic Peer to Peer and Advanced CISM classes, heard that Kern County needed a CISM trainer, so he attended The Salvation Army’s Train the Trainer Critical Incident Management Peer to Peer Class in Chicago.

When Ebel returned, Dr. Phil Foley, disaster coordinator for Kern County, urged him to offer a class. They chose a date and scheduled Territorial Disaster Director Monica Severson to team-teach the class with him for two days in October.

Class registration was full prior to the event. Thirty-seven professionals were trained, including representatives from the Bakersfield Fire Department, Bakersfield Police, Kern County Fire Department, Kern County Mental Health, Victim Relief Organization, along with pastors, Christian lay counselors and Salvation Army staff.

Class feedback was unanimously positive. Participants were excited about their new tools and saw ways to implement them in their regular assignments, as well as in preparing for future disasters.
Two days later, Ebel attended a countywide ministry meeting and was pleased to find that people who had attended the class had shared with their pastors. Several of those pastors expressed interest in attending the next class so they can be better prepared to manage disaster response.

During Southern California’s recent Day Fire, Kern County created an evacuation site. In the four days that the Bakersfield Salvation Army canteen was on duty, Ebel logged 23 hours of CISM counseling. Through his training, Ebel helped make others’ lives better, demonstrating again that The Salvation Army is meeting needs in practical ways.

“I only regret that I served so many years in such a variety of positions without these powerful tools,” said Ebel. “To think of how much more effective I could have been had I only known the things I learned in these classes. I am convinced that every officer and key lay leader should at least take the CISM Peer to Peer Support class. I use parts of the knowledge weekly in relating to clients and corps families. I am so thankful for Salvation Army leadership that had the foresight to add this training to the tools available to us who serve suffering humanity.”

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