By Billy Robinson
South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers In Mission’s Early Response Team started preparation for Hurricane Irma well in advance when it was a Category 5 storm, along with all on the South Carolina United Methodist Disaster Response Committee. Conference calls kept everyone abreast, and warnings along with vital information were sent out to all.
After the storm, the committee immediately started assessing the situations, and ERTs went into action across the state. We have more than 300 ERT certified volunteers and seven disaster response trailers across our state. We were, by the grace of Almighty God, spared a big-scale disaster like we saw in the past two years, which our rebuild teams are still working on.
ERT response was limited as the number of damaged homes was far fewer than expected considering the strong tropical force winds and some flooding this state received.
We get requests for disaster assistance through various means, including county emergency managers, disaster response coordinators, local churches and the 211 information line, in conjunction with Crisis Clean Up, which is a system the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and South Carolina Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster operate out of.
We have responded to various calls throughout the state and expect more in the coming weeks, and several of our ERTs plan to respond to Florida and other states as needed as soon as we receive the official request.
One ERT response to Hurricane Irma found us at a destroyed mobile home on Partridge Lane, North, Sept. 14. The occupant of the home had sought shelter away from her home when a huge oak tree came crashing onto it and through the den, demolishing the home. Her access to the home and all her belongings were cut off by the debris and unsafe conditions, plus she was worried further storms would ruin everything she had left.
We cut egress routes out to the home, retrieved her belongings (including furniture and appliances) and relocated them to a warehouse in town for safe keeping. We also provided her with spiritual care including prayer.
More help is needed. We have several ERT trainings coming up in the Midlands and Upstate. If interested: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robinson is the South Carolina UMVIM ERT coordinator.