The new face of Emergency Disaster Services
by Georgia Tzanidis and Monica Severson –
The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS)—what image comes to mind?
Often it’s the Army canteen onsite at a disaster with volunteers handing out snacks and beverages. The canteen has served the Army well over the years, but with the nature of disasters changing and their frequency increasing, the Army’s (EDS) is moving into the 21st Century with a new vision—Preparedness Professionals.
What Is Preparedness?
Preparedness is a component of the new National Incident Management System that all local, state and federal agencies now follow. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) describes preparedness as “involving an integrated combination of planning, training, exercises, personnel qualification and certification standards, equipment acquisition and certification standards and publications management processes well in advance of any potential incident.”
EDS coordinators and directors are quickly adopting this notion of “preparedness professionals”—the increased use of professional staff and the disaster experience level of our officers and volunteers reflect this ideal. The Salvation Army is working with emergency managers from the public and private sectors to plan, prepare, and respond to disasters. And the Army’s role is being identified in emergency response plans at the local, state and federal level.
The EDS goal is to strengthen non-profit, government and private sector partnerships. At every level of The Salvation Army, relationships and memorandums of agreement should be developed with our partners. Promoting the sharing of knowledge with our partners facilitates responses and decreases duplication of services. An example would be CAN—the Coordinated Assistance Network. The Western Territory is involved in two CAN pilots, in San Francisco and Seattle. Both pilots are working with local communities to provide comprehensive emergency assistance to those in need by coordinating the agencies providing resources.
Additionally, EDS plans to provide information and expertise in critical areas internal to The Salvation Army such as business continuity planning, first aid and safety training. Business continuity plans need to be designed at each level of the organization, from the corps to headquarters, to prepare the entire Army to respond to a catastrophic emergency. For instance, this plan will clearly define emergency procedures, alternative forms of communication, personnel roles, etc. for Salvation Army units. When these plans are implemented, each corps and division will use them to successfully respond to local and catastrophic disasters. As large as the Army is, it is in its best interest to be proactive and take initiative on preparedness projects rather having to react at the last minute to a catastrophe.
The National Disaster Services Committee has designed and implemented a National Disaster Training Program with financial assistance from the Lilly Foundation. EDS staff and officers throughout the territory are already teaching introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses. As a result, the level of training for officers, employees and volunteers is increasing. So far this year the CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) and Medic First Aid Trainer courses have been completed.
Captain David Ebel of the Bakersfield Citadel Corps recently attended a CISM Train-the-Trainer course and attested to the significance of disaster training. “The CISM Train-the-Trainer course was one of the most thorough classes I have ever attended. I believe everyone who helps people in time of crisis or great emotional need really should take this class before they try to meet crisis needs.”
Regional disaster instructor courses are being held in the territory as well. Currently, over 50 instructors have been trained in the Western Territory alone. In September, another 25 people will attend the next disaster instructor course.
Introductory Courses include the following: Introduction to Disaster Services, Disaster Food Service: Handling and Delivery, Disaster Social Service, Preparing Your Congregation for Disaster. Intermediate Courses include the Incident Command System, Critical Incident Stress Management (Individual & Peer) and Public Information Officer. Advanced Courses include Emotional and Spiritual Care in Disaster Operations and additional advanced Incident Command Courses that will be available in January.
Course dates and locations are available on the Western Territory Lotus Notes Bulletin Board under Disaster Services. For more information, please contact your divisional EDS coordinator at your divisional headquarters.
The 2005 disaster season taught us that we needed more advanced incident command leadership courses as well as additional planning and training with the government sector at the local, state and federal levels. The focus from the National Disaster Committee is to provide more advanced leadership training.
This year the Salvation Army has kicked off a national partnership with Medic First Aid International. They provide high quality professional courses that cover CPR for the workplace and for infants and children, general first aid and 30 occupational safety courses.
The National Disaster Services Committee has been working with three national partners—the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Civil Liberties Office, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Red Cross—to provide inter-agency disaster training. The Eastern Territory is piloting the Special Needs Program with the DHS; the CDC is working with The Salvation Army to provide nationwide pandemic influenza training. The committee is also working with the Red Cross to co-teach some of their disaster courses.
Pandemic Bird Flu (Avian Influenza)
The National Disaster Services Committee recognizes the importance of addressing the issue of pandemic events and the potential for catastrophic disaster throughout the country. In fact, many territories are currently investigating the issues associated with the Avian Bird Flu and working to implement preparedness plans for their respective areas. In fact, Don Read of the Sierra Del Mar Division and the San Diego County Public Health Department has designed a Pandemic Influenza PowerPoint training. The National Disaster Services Committee would like to adopt this training for nationwide use and is working with the CDC to edit this training so the presentation could be given to all the corps across the country.
Ministry of Presence: Improving The Ministry of Emergency Disaster Services
The last few years have marked some significant changes in the very essence of emergency disaster services within The Salvation Army. A new corporate culture is developing that makes ministry and mission the focus of what we do. Through training and experience, The Salvation Army has developed and now deploys a concept known as ministry of presence to bring God’s love and compassion to the disaster site. It has been said that using the ministry of presence during disasters may become the open air ministry of this day and age, inasmuch as this ministry seeks to restore and heal those whose lives have been horribly affected by tragedy and adversity.
There is considerable evidence that lives are being changed, as those in the midst of destruction and devastation meet a God who cares and understands. For example, emotional and spiritual care workers responding after Hurricane Katrina talk about the way they ministered with the people of New Orleans who had lost everything. Lt. Colonel R. Eugene Pigford of the Eastern Territory spent time in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and gives the following account: “Somehow I worked my way through this totally upended room, being reminded of some grotesque haunted house, until I was with them. Their formerly white coveralls and masks were splattered with mud from their futile efforts to retrieve some small memorabilia of their life there. We stood together in silence. No words were needed…. Our gloved hands joined together and we prayed. Jesus was there in the midst. We all knew it and sensed it together, speaking his Name in faith and thanksgiving.”
In the coming months, the network of EDS staff in the West hopes to move the Army above and beyond the level of prepared—not only with our mobile feeding units but with strategic planning. As hurricane season quickly approaches time is certainly of the essence. But no matter what the nature of the disaster, the implementation of these principles will equip the Army to respond with authority—and, in turn, earn the title of preparedness professionals—polished and ready.