Disaster Response Ministry work progressing

November 11, 2019
By Alan Wild
Plans to improve the Kentucky Annual Conference’s disaster-preparedness protocols are steadily proceeding, according to Disaster Response Coordinator Jim Morse.

In a recent interview, Morse said one of the major goals is to provide training opportunities at both the district and individual church level.

“We’re trying to build the capacity to be better trainers and to have a response team,” said Morse, a retired Oldham County Emergency Management Director who has been in his role with the Conference for eight years.

The goal is to organize a team-oriented operation, with not just disaster-response teams, but also churches, working together at the district level, Morse said.

Bishop Leonard Fairley has directed Morse to help Kentucky’s United Methodist churches craft or improve their emergency plans, and to improve the disaster-response protocols of the Conference as a whole.

Morse and his volunteers are prepared to offer three types of training across districts or at individual churches:

Early Response Team (ERT) basic training

These regional teams will be responsible for quickly responding in the event of a disaster. Morse is hoping to do three or four classes in up to four districts across the Conference by next April. Disaster Ministry will cover most of the costs, with individuals paying $20 to $25. Details:
  • Training can be done in a single eight-hour day.
  • Participants must be 18 or older.
  • They must be trained in Safe Sanctuaries either online or in a local church with a pastor’s letter certifying completion.
  • Background checks will be required. The United Methodist Committee on Relief, or UMCOR, will pay for them. Individuals will undergo the check the week of training via a supplied, secure link that neither Morse nor anyone else at the Conference will see.

Early Response Team ‘train the trainers’

This class, originally scheduled for this past September but now planned for late April 2020, is designed for people already certified as early responders. Morse said the ultimate goal is to have a trainer in each of the Conference’s nine districts by the end of 2021. Details:
  • Candidates must be currently credentialed ERT members to take this training.
  • To be certified, participants must be willing to take 16 hours of classroom training over three days as well as teach a basic ERT class with an UMCOR evaluator.
  • A total of 16 hours of training is required. The tentative plan is to do half a day of training Thursday, all day Friday, and then half a day Saturday. That would allow pastors and others with church-related responsibilities to be back home for Sunday morning services.
  • Disaster Ministry will cover as much of the cost as possible, including lodging and mileage. Most meals also will be provided.
  • Participants must be willing to teach at least two basic early response trainings a year.

Connecting Neighbors

This program from UMCOR is designed to do three things:
  • Prepare neighbors by training them to be in better position to handle disasters.
  • Make sure churches have effective emergency plans.
  • Help churches put together a post-disaster vision of effective witnessing and ministering.
Churches can help share expenses and information from the Connecting Neighbors training by pairing up on training, and several have already done so, Morse said.

The Disaster Response Ministry, with the help of Conference Communications, is in the process of creating an online Connecting Neighbors training/workshop, he said.

The videos, which will be available online before the end of the year, will cover much of the information that the actual Connecting Neighbors workshop would provide, although it’s not a replacement of the in-person trainings since much of the benefit comes from the interaction and discussions of the participants, Morse said.

The video opportunity is to engage more individuals and to encourage in-person workshops with multiple churches and participants. Part of this should be made available through the Conference website (www.kyumc.org) by the end of this year, Morse said.

Morse, who generally keeps office hours on Monday and Thursday mornings, also is working on a detailed document to be posted on the website to help churches develop their disaster plans.

If you’re interested in more information about any of these training opportunities, contact Jim Morse, the Conference’s Disaster Response Coordinator, at jmorse@kyumc.org.