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First-time disaster track takes off at conference

History was made at the 2003 National Social Service Conference when social services and disasters services met in concurrent sessions. This year’s National Social Service Conference provided a venue for the piloting of the Army’s national disaster services training program.

The introduction of a disaster track at the conference offered a first-time opportunity for disaster trainers from the four U.S. territories and Canada to present four of eighteen training modules currently being developed.

The four courses piloted were: Introduction to Salvation Army Disaster Services, Overview of the Nature and Hazards of Disasters, Community and Government in Disaster Services, and Disaster Recovery Case Management. In addition, a Critical Incident Stress Management course was taught by Tom McSherry, Western territorial disaster services coordinator.

Given the first year of this endeavor, the disaster courses were well attended and received positively by participating conference delegates—social services and disaster personnel alike. One delegate commented, “I am a seasoned disaster worker who is well trained. I came to this conference feeling that I knew just about everything anyone could know about disaster work. I was very surprised and pleased by how much I have learned about disaster work through the new training program.”

The Army received funding through the Lilly Endowment to develop and implement a national disaster training program. In addition to developing a training program to serve the training needs of the organization, the Army is also engaging a significant number of faith-based organizations active in disasters to provide direct input into the organization’s training. In addition, as part of the project, the faith-based community is working on the joint development of training modules culminating in a national standard for spiritual care in response to disasters.

The training project is being developed by a project steering committee with topical sub-committees, which are the means for organizational participation in training program development. The committee members participating in the project are Salvation Army officers, staff, volunteers, faith-based organizations, FEMA, and humanitarian organizations. Major David Dalberg, national disaster services coordinator is the Lilly Endowment National Training Project Manager with Potentialbilities Consulting Group of Wilmington, Delaware serving as project consultant.

At the heart of this comprehensive training program is a pastoral training module, which will assist Salvation Army officers in their efforts to enhance their ministry during times of disasters. During the events of 9/11 attacks on America, The Salvation Army provided significant spiritual care and support to survivors, family members, first responders, and to the scores of public servants, workers, and volunteers involved in recovery efforts.

The training provided as part of the disaster track at the National Social Service Conference is another major step in moving the Army’s national disaster training program forward. With the Army’s rich history of over 103 years of disaster service and ministry in the United States, it is seeking every opportunity to best prepare itself in all aspects of caring, serving, and ministry to those affected by natural and human-created disasters.

During these years of service the Army has fulfilled its primary training at the divisional and territorial levels, for the most, with independent development and teaching.

With the development, introduction, and on-going instruction of a standardized national disaster training program, The Salvation Army will be a better prepared, better trained, and a more effective faith-based organization sharing the very love and life of Christ through its demonstrated faith.

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