The Disaster Response Center

The role of the DisasterResponseMinistry following a local disaster is to effectively manage the response efforts and resources available to our church including information, supplies, volunteers and financial assistance. This resource management is coordinated in the Disaster ResponseCenter (DRC) where volunteers work closely with church staff, the district, conference and outside relief agencies to ensure clear lines of communication and effective coordination of resources.  The size and nature of the disaster dictate the nature of the DRC.   In a small event it could be a single desk and telephone such as the volunteer desk in the Susanna Wesley House, while a catastrophic event could require a large room, several tables with multiple phone lines, maps, charts, displays and other facilities accommodating 15 to 20 workers, such as the Worship Center at Stony Point..


The staff of the Disaster Response Center runs the initial relief phase of the church’s response operation.  For planning purposes, we will plan for a catastrophic event, the worst case scenario.  Lesser events would require lesser actions and a smaller organization.  The relief phase is fast-paced.  Its work is done on a broad scale, providing only a temporary fix to as many survivors as possible in a short amount of time.  More permanent fixes which require longer time to accomplish are a function of long-term recovery.    Figuratively speaking, the DRC could be viewed as the first aid station of disaster response, putting on bandages and stopping bleeding to provide safety, sanitation and security to the vulnerable effected by the disaster.  Other functions of the Disaster Response Center in a major disaster include:

· Determining the status of the pastors, staff; and physical facilities;

· Determining immediate needs and coordinating outside resources to provide help;

· Coordinating with local emergency service providers;

· Informing the conference through the district of details and needs.  


Disaster operations are organized differently in the relief and long-term recovery phases.  The DRC is utilized only in the relief phase, when the disaster seems to have a life of its own.  The situation and reactions to it are very fluid and almost chaotic at times.  Consequently, a  deliberate and structured management system is required.  The Incident Command System (ICS), or as the national United Methodist Church prefers to call it: The Incident Coordination System, is the structure of choice for United Methodist churches.  In California, the ICS is required of all governmental agencies under the state’s Standardized Emergency Management System.

ICS breaks disaster response management into manageable segments, specifically the five functions of leadership, planning, logistics, operations, and administration/finance.  Each function does not necessarily require independent staffing.  Initially, or in a small event, a single person may perform several functional roles.  As the complexity of the response increases, so does the size of the staff.  When things calm down and workload diminishes, the ICS structure can scale back and reduce its size to one or two people to perform all the functions.

A short version of the function of the five main ICS positions is:

· Incident Commander - the person who will lead and make decisions. This function manages the overall response and recovery to an emergency and directs the other functions.

· Operations - the person who will do the work. Has responsibility for whatever the church does to respond to disaster needs.

· Planning - the person who keeps everyone in the know. Monitors the news; comes up with short (i.e., what are we going to do in the next 24-hours), and long-term plans for the congregation’s recovery.  Records lessons learned and suggestions for improvement.

· Logistics - the person to get the resources. Responsible for getting everything  operations needs to ensure the health and safety of staff, congregants and other persons.

· Administration/Finance - the person who will track all activities and costs. This person must also ensure there are safe backup copies for the following documents:  1. Articles of Incorporation (e.g., verification of tax exempt status); 2. Recent photographs documenting the interior and exterior of your facility; 3. Insurance documentation; 4. Licensing documentation for the Child Care Center.