By Tommy Deal
On a recent Saturday, 15 volunteers gathered for a training event sponsored by Alabama CBF at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. CBF Alabama Coordinator Terri Byrd and Associate Coordinator Lucas Dorion enlisted the assistance of Volunteers of America Southeast (VOASE). VOASE leaders Paul McClendon and Henry “Digger” Creel lead the sessions along with Tommy Deal, CBF’s U.S. Disaster Response Director.
Participants included members of CBF churches in Alabama and Georgia, with the following congregations represented: Vestavia Hills Baptist (Ala.), Alpine Baptist Church (Ala.), First Baptist Church of Williams (Ala.), First Baptist Church of Carollton, Ga., and First Baptist Church of Augusta, Ga.
McClendon and Creel have been key leaders in disaster response efforts along the Gulf Coast. They have also been great partners helping to organize and lead Alabama CBF volunteers as well CBF Disaster Response volunteers and others in the aftermath of hurricanes and tornadoes. McClendon and Creel were instrumental in working alongside First Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla., and CBF of Florida and other faith-based groups in setting up emergency health clinics in that area after Hurricane Katrina.
During the training event, McClendon and Creel led sessions on understanding what a disaster is and what goes into determining the response and what type of response s necessary. Participants were encouraged to prepare for eventual disasters by making personal preparations and preparations for their congregations.
The training event featured discussions on how churches can develop a “team” to be able to address needs close to home and also need in nearby areas. Participants from First Baptist Williams shared best practices and tips learned over their years of involvement in disaster response efforts, specifically what the church learned responding to the deadly tornadoes that tore through Alabama and George three years ago.
Deal spoke about the importance of networking and partnerships in disaster response. On a national and state level, CBF relates to others through VOAD (Voluntary
Organizations Active in Disasters), as well as state and local Emergency Management Agencies. Local churches, too, should connect with their local EMA and become involved in any area organizations in which groups plan for, prepare for and participate in disaster response.
Deal also addressed the necessity of volunteer registration through CBF and some new processes that are being tested. Credentials through the organization can be helpful when individuals and/or groups volunteer in areas near and far.
“The desire is to replicate this over and over again around different regions where we have a strong interest in active participation in disaster response,” Deal said. “This is the kind of thing we want to do to help take us to the next level of being ready to respond to our neighbors.”
For more information and/or to schedule a disaster response training session in your church and area, contact Deal at firstname.lastname@example.org