UMCOR training is helping strengthen long-term recovery after the Butte Fire in California. Photo: Adam DuBrowa/FEMA
What you need to know about UMCOR disaster response training
By Susan Kim*
February 9, 2016—From case management training, to “Connecting Neighbors,” to workshops for bishops and cabinet members, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has something to teach people about disaster response.
The result? Particularly over the last decade, UMCOR’s training programs have made disaster response more efficient, increased ecumenical participation, and strengthened public-private partnerships. All this ultimately helps disaster survivors recover over the months and years it takes to regain a sense of normalcy.
Below, are seven “fast facts” about UMCOR’s training, and where it stands in 2016.
UMCOR has developed a niche for case management within the disaster response community. “UMCOR remains the ‘go-to’ organization for disaster case management training,” said Catherine Earl, U.S. Disaster Response executive, “and it is through this long-term recovery partnership that lives can be changed in lasting ways.”
Earl and UMCOR’s other case management trainers abide by an underlying philosophy of care that moves disaster survivors beyond file folders and into a holistic plan for recovery that addresses physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Disaster response is local — and training fosters local connections. Congregations that invest their time in “Connecting Neighbors” training are able to draw on local resources more quickly in the wake of a disaster. “Connecting Neighbors” is UMCOR’s newly updated program that gives volunteer trainers the tools and information they need to guide the development of local church disaster-response ministries.
In case management training, local connections make all the difference, said Christy Smith, an UMCOR consultant who serves as a case management trainer. “The places I go where training is so successful, the conference on the ground has connected well with the community itself,” she explained.
|UMCOR case management training in California brought together many resources. Photo: Catherine Earl
UMCOR training fosters partnerships with local nonprofits. This week, Earl delivered case management training for those responding to the Butte Fire, a wildfire that began in September 2015 and burned a total of 70,868 acres and 475 residences in central California.
Carol Phelps, a retired social worker who attended the training, is affiliated with a local nonprofit, The Resource Connection, which has been helping Butte fire survivors. “Cathy [Catherine Earl] is probably one of two presenters I’ve heard that are so top-notch in my life,” she said.
Bishops and cabinets need training, too. After a recent training in the Pennsylvania-Delaware Conference, Rich Walton, disaster response coordinator, said he observed that training allows cabinet members and their staff to understand exactly what UMCOR does in the wake of a disaster — and how that works at the conference level. “Simply put, I think the important piece is for people to recognize the faces of UMCOR,” he said. “In a disaster, that’s not the time you need to be handing out business cards and introducing yourself. Training helps you establish the relationship before the chaos.”
UMCOR training is ecumenical. Catherine Driver, regional director for Catholic Charities, attended UMCOR case management training in California because she wanted to learn more about the role of UMCOR, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and others in long-term recovery. “It has been amazing to see the different agencies and community members come together,” she said. “It’s God at work.”
FEMA acknowledges the value of UMCOR training. Cheryl Brekke, a FEMA voluntary agency liaison, said UMCOR training helps draw together resources and bring them to the disaster recovery table. “It makes everybody’s job so much more efficient,” she said. “We couldn’t do it without the faith-based groups.”
Benefits of training spread across the disaster recovery table. The Rev. Scott Wylie, pastor at the Community United Methodist Church of Valley Springs in California, has represented the United Methodist Church as a local responder working collaboratively with other responders who have formed a long-term recovery committee to help Butte Fire survivors.
Wylie attended case management training to better understand the network of many partners who will bring resources to fire survivors, as well as the emotional and spiritual care needs of survivors. “Everything will come through case management,” he said. “It’s ultimately how we understand the needs that are coming to us.”
To connect with UMCOR training opportunities, contact your annual conference disaster response coordinator. Your gift to UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response, Advance #901670, will help UMCOR expand, enhance, and continue training programs that have become a staple for disaster recovery.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.