The North American Mission Board, which coordinates SBDR multi-state responses, quickly began to facilitate Southern Baptists’ part of the large-scale relief effort for the hard-hit coast through its partnerships with Baptist state conventions; local, state and federal governments; the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army; and key corporations.
To effectively respond in times of crisis, partnerships must be formed in advance.
“You can’t wait and do it in the chaos of the moment,” said Fritz Wilson, SBDR executive director. “We have a network in place that I can go to immediately as quickly as we know what is happening.”
Based on requests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Wilson discussed with several state Baptist DR leaders the deployment of all Baptist conventions east of the Rockies.
Several states, including Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina, deployed volunteer units immediately. Eventually, 25 state conventions deployed SBDR teams, making it one of the largest responses since Hurricane Katrina.
Both the New York and New Jersey state conventions reached out to NAMB to coordinate the response, akin to most large-scale disasters when affected states request assistance. Wilson said because of the strong partnerships within SBDR, which includes volunteers from all 42 state conventions and Canada, Southern Baptists are able to respond to disasters anywhere in the world through NAMB, the International Mission Board and Baptist Global Response.
North Carolina disaster relief director Gayland Moss, whose team was asked by New Jersey Baptists through NAMB to manage the response there, agreed that partnership is crucial to effective disaster response.
“Our national partner [NAMB] has a national footprint,” Moss said. “They have national relationships and can create a framework with any state.”
Federal and state government
FEMA administrator Craig Fugate is among those who have underscored SBDR’s role as a primary partner in disaster relief. “Until people are back in their homes,” Fugate said during the initial Sandy response, “Southern Baptist will be needed.”
Michael Whitehead, the Florida Department of Emergency Management’s mass care coordinator, echoed the need for strong partnerships and preparedness.
“Regardless of the forecast, we have to get ready for a major hurricane to hit southeast Florida,” Whitehead said. “People in the state of Florida and the governor expect a world-class disaster response every single time. The key to success in the state is that we work together as a team with nonprofits and the private sector when responding to disasters.”
In Florida, for example, the state gives logistical support to field kitchens by providing hand-washing stations, port-o-potties, dumpsters, ice and water trucks, and other resources for the sites. In May, Florida hosted a National Mass Care exercise for a second year. Florida Baptists set up a feeding kitchen at the exercise, with SBDR team members working with many of their national partners.
Working with trained organized volunteer groups like SBDR, the American Red Cross (ARC) and The Salvation Army (TSA) is a big advantage, Whitehead said, noting, “They can come into a very austere environment and can operate.”
As one of the three largest disaster relief volunteer organizations in the nation, with 82,000 trained volunteers and a fleet of 1,550 mobile units, Southern Baptists serve following nearly every disaster, Wilson said. ARC and TSA are the other two large-scale volunteer entities.
For more than 25 years, Baptists have worked with ARC on the national and local level. The partnership primarily involves disaster feeding operations but also includes other services. NAMB deploys representatives to the ARC’s Disaster Operations Center in Washington, D.C., to help coordinate major responses.
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