[Welcome / Introduction]
Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to
EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Host and Moderator
today and we are very glad you could join us.
Today we are pleased to feature the disaster services provided by the
Tennessee Baptist Convention. The state has more than 11,000
trained volunteers from churches and associations who are ready to
deploy with a wide range of response assets.
Now it is my pleasure to introduce David Acres, State Disaster Relief
Director since 2005. An ordained minister, the Rev. Acres previously
held a number of pastoral and administrative positions with churches in
Welcome David and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us
today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.
David Acres: Thank you, Amy. It is really a
privilege to be a part of the webinar this morning and to answer some
questions a little bit later on about what we do in Tennessee Baptist
Disaster Relief. I want to give you a quick overview of what we do
in Disaster Relief Ministry with Tennessee Baptist.
In Disaster Relief Ministry in Tennessee, and we do work in other
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, we have 42 state conventions and all
our conventions are involved in disaster relief ministry. We work
hand in hand with The American Red Cross and Salvation Army when they
are trying to feed people in mass care after a disaster takes place.
I wanted to talk to you about some of the things we do well as far as
disaster relief is concerned. Number one—we are known for
feeding. In Tennessee we have six mass feeding kitchens that are
mobile kitchen units that are totally self-contained that we can pull
out on a church parking lot. We have our own gas bottles that we
take with us to be able to use on the kitchens.
We can provide our own water supply. All those things are readily
available to us with the mobile kitchens. We have kitchens that
can do anywhere from around 5,000 meals a day and we have one state
kitchen that can do up to 50,000 meals a day. We can combine them
all together and feed a large population in a short period of time with
our mobile kitchen.
One thing about our feeding unit—we have lead cooks across the state
that worked with us on our kitchens. They have been through a lot
of training, especially the Serve Safe, which is required for all
restaurants throughout the state of Tennessee. We put them through the
Serve Safe training so they can meet the qualifications when the health
department comes out to be able to inspect and tell us what we are doing
right and what we are doing wrong.
Our volunteers that work on the feeding kitchens have three to six hours
of training before we send them out. We have a Part A class which
is a classroom safety class we put them through and give them all the
details of what is right and wrong and what temperatures and things like
that to use. We have a Part B which is hands-on where they go out
with one of the feeding units and work with someone who has been
through the training.
We are well-known for our feeding. It is well planned out.
We have menus that are planned in advance. If we are called today
and told we need to take 20,000 meals to a certain location we can pick
up the phone, call our supplier and tell them we want so many meals of
menu number six or menu number ten and we don’t have to do a lot of
figuring or anything like that. It is automatically done for us
through the computers. They send the food supply we need to be
able to cook the meals that are needed by Red Cross or Salvation Army.
We also do a good job with childcare. This is one of the things we
are proud of. We have a lot of trained volunteers who meet the
criteria for the Department of Children Services in almost every state
in the United States where they go through background checks and go
through training to be qualified to take care of children on a temporary
basis when we go out.
We only have one childcare unit as we call it. We have a large
trailer full of equipment we can pull out and we can set up in a
fellowship hall, gymnasium or community center. We have beds,
rocking chairs, carpet for the floor and all kinds of things we can use
to be able to take care of children while moms and dads are working on
getting the house back in order or even before schools open back up
where moms and dads can go back to work. We can take care of their kids
while they do that.
We also have a lot of recovery units in Tennessee. Recovery units
are what we call the mud-out or flood recovery units where they go in
after a flooding has taken place and clean the house out as far as wet
couches, chairs, carpet and even when the sheetrock is wet on the wall
they can cut it off to where it will keep from seeping up the wall and
creating more damage. We also have some of those teams that will come
back in and rebuild the house and put the sheetrock down and help it as
much as possible.
We have chainsaw teams. In Tennessee we have 110 chainsaw teams
across the state. Some of these teams are quite well equipped
where they have skid steers with grapple buckets on the front to where
they can pick up the trash and carry it to the road where it can be
hauled off by the city or county after a disaster.
Then there are clean-up crews that can go in and pick up things from
yards and fields. Some of the other units we have are valuable to
us in Tennessee but they are valuable to shelters with Red Cross and
others. We have shower units. Tennessee is blessed with
about sixteen shower trailers. These are mobile units that are
self-contained. We have our own fuel supplies so we can provide
hot water for people to have a hot shower in those shelters.
Also for our volunteers that go out to work—we can provide good showers
for them after the jobs are done in the afternoon. Along with the
shower units we have mobile laundry units that can provide laundry for
people in the community and volunteers that go out—they can take care of
them while they are out.
We also have crisis counseling or chaplains that are trained that can
work in the community that can go out door to door and help with
community counseling or give some hope back to some people who have been
through tragic events in their life. We also use our chaplains or
crisis counselors to go with each of our units that go out to keep
watch on our volunteers that are out there and kind of a safety officer
too—not necessarily for a tree that might fall on them, but for
dehydration and tiredness.
Sometimes you have to tell people they are more tired than they feel
they really are so we use our counselors or chaplains for that. We
have a pretty good bank of interpreters across the state. I can’t
tell you how many languages they speak but in Tennessee we have a lot
of languages that are spoken.
I had a lady tell me that one of the classes in a school in the
Nashville area—in a second or third grade classroom they had 16
different languages that were spoken in one particular classroom.
You can see we need a lot of interpreters in Tennessee.
Advocacy—we have people who go out after a disaster and try to work with
people and make sure they are getting what they need. It is like
how we would work with the Methodist group in doing case management to
make sure we take care of the people, meet their needs and get them back
on the road to recovery.
We do have a group we call Rebuild. We call them Baptist Builders
in our ministry. After a disaster is over with and it is no longer
declared a disaster area we have a lot of people from churches in our
state who will go in and do rebuild and do reconstruction. After
Hurricane Katrina we rebuilt better than seventy houses in Pass
Christian, Mississippi from the ground up and helping people get back in
their homes. Right now we are involved in Long Island New York, and
Staten Island, New York helping people rebuild their homes up
there. We are sending rebuild teams to that area.
Communications—we have a large communications trailer that has a
satellite dish on top of it where we can put a satellite up in the air
and send and receive emails and voicemails. We also have a ham
radio. We have citizens band. We have a business band and all kinds of
radios on our communications trailer so we can stay in communication
with people back here at home when we are doing a disaster but we can
also relay messages back and forth when the power is down and especially
when communication is down.
Our levels of involvement of how we work—when there is a large disaster
such as we have seen with Katrina, but some of the other disasters like
Oklahoma and disasters that took place back in May—on a national
response we are called out by the North American Mission Board to go to
these places and help. Whether it is mass feeding, or may be our
recovery teams or even our chaplains or crisis counseling teams—they can
go out and help in these areas.
State response—we are in charge of that here at the Tennessee Baptist
Convention. When a large disaster happens here in state of
Tennessee we look to our teams that are across the state from Mountain
City to Memphis to be able to help us locally. If they call us and
say it is bigger than what we are we put out of call to other
associations and other church teams across the state and they can go in
and help out.
That sums up our associational response to associations. We have
65 of those across state of Tennessee and we have a lot of disaster
relief volunteers in each of those associations that can respond and be
the eyes on the ground to see what the needs are and be able to
communicate with us here at the Tennessee Baptist Convention to be able
to know how to respond to help out there in their local association.
We are really pushing for disaster prepared churches. Helping churches
understand more about what the disasters are in their local communities
or what could possibly be a local disaster and help them be prepared
when one of those disasters happens.
In Tennessee we look to any interested Tennessee Baptist. If they
call us and say they want to be involved in disaster relief we point
them toward one of our trainings in Tennessee. We do trainings all
across the state. We help people be qualified, be certified and
credentialed. We do a background check on everybody who works with
us in the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
They go through a criminal and sexual offender background check so we
know when we put a credential or badge on these people we know who is
responding and we know that where we are sending them they are going to
be the kind of people we want for people out there to associate with us
that represent us as Tennessee Baptists out there in the field.
We do training across the state. We do train them in every one of
our units you see listed there—feeding unit, childcare and shower units,
chain saws. I can’t teach someone how to run a chainsaw but we go
through a lot of safety precautions as far as the chainsaw is concerned
and help them understand what we do.
In Tennessee we have a lot of state sanctioned units—a ministry in the
church or association that is subject to call for the state or
multi-state response. They have our disaster relief logos on their
trailers and trucks when they go out so they represent their local
church or association but they also represent the Tennessee Baptist
Convention. They really represent the Southern Baptist Convention
because we are working under the umbrella of the Southern Baptist
Convention when they go out.
There are some autonomous units in state of Tennessee that will respond
when a disaster happens. They will respond locally. All of
you know that as long as there have been disasters and as long there has
been churches, churches have been helping out in disaster. In
Tennessee that is where we get all our volunteers as far as Tennessee
Baptist is concerned. We have a lot of great volunteers that come
from our churches.
The four-step process that we have fallen under to become state
sanctioned as any church or association unit—they have to go through the
Introduction to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief which is a three hour
course we take them through. We recertify people every three years
and take them back through the introduction class.
It is not a three hour class after they have been through the first
one—it is usually fifty minutes to an hour. It brings them up to
date on what we do in disaster relief and how we work alongside out
partners like Red Cross and Salvation Army but also Homeland Security,
FEMA and the VOAD groups we work alongside of.
We do have in-depth training that we do for other disciplines out there
in the field. In Southern Baptist life we know the people who are
in charge by the color of the hat they wear. After you have gone
through training with the introduction to Southern Baptist Disaster
Relief and the other disciplines we give them a yellow hat that has
“disaster relief” on the front.
Some of those who are a little more knowledgeable of what we are doing
in disaster relief are put through blue cap training. Blue cap
training helps them understand forms we have to fill out and they
understand who they are working with in the field. They go through
the blue cap training. They also have a letter of agreement they
sign that says the disaster team they have is ready and available to use
when a disaster happens whether it is in or out of Tennessee.
They also have the ability to say they are not able to go at this
time. Some of our volunteers are people with full-time jobs and it
is hard for them to go at the drop of a hat. That is why in
Southern Baptist life we couldn’t do what we do if it wasn’t for the
retirees that are out there and willing to go and give their time and
talents and abilities to help us in disaster relief ministry. This
is a volunteer ministry so they can go and help out when they can and
when they are called on.
The autonomous units—it has a little bit about the guided involvement
that is involved there. There is training available for all the
associations and churches. We want to make it available for them so they
will be more safe when they go out there so they understand what we are
doing and how we are trying to make a difference.
In Southern Baptist Disaster Relief we don’t want 500 people showing up
when we only have a position or a place for 150 or 250 to stay or that
kind of situation. We want to make sure they are taken care of on
We are trying to do more and more with church preparedness. We do
have courses we teach in the local churches where we do family
preparedness which helps them understand how to have a disaster plan and
have a disaster kit available to them, not to make it a scare tactic
type of thing but to help them understand there are disasters that
happen in all of our lives and to be prepared for it when that time
We do a church preparedness class that helps them understand how their
local church could be a shelter for people in the community when a
disaster takes place. We have a lot of churches across our state
that have crisis closets to where if they have a short supply of food
they can make available to those people in the community for the first
24 to 72 hours but they also will have things like clothing, bed
supplies, blankets or cots that are made available to people in the
It is amazing when we go into some of these churches and help them
understand what they can do locally and how much their eyes are opened
and thinking that we don’t have to go to another state or country to
make a difference in people’s lives. We can do it right here in
the community when disaster happens. We do state training across
the state. This year we have been involved in eight regional
trainings from Memphis to Mountain City. We have volunteers that
come to these different ones where we do classroom as well as hands-on.
We even have training that is available for people who drive
forklifts. We have training for people who use bucket
trucks. Tennessee is blessed with three bucket trucks we can
take with us when disasters happen. Two of those will go about 30
feet in the air and one will go about 60 feet in the air. We do a
hands-on training on those to make sure that people are aware of safety
issues and know what they are doing when they get 60 feet in the air.
We do a thing with our churchs, a pre-event ministry and outreach tool,
to where they can let the people in the community know what is available
to them—if something happens in the community this church is available
to help them as much as they can. We have a leadership council
that meets with me on a quarterly basis. Sixteen people across our
state that represent sixteen regions here that are building
relationships with local emergency management and other agencies—that
can help them understand what we are able to do for them.
We have had a few occasions when we have helped some power companies
where there have been ice storms to where the power company can
concentrate on getting the power back on while we are cutting the right
of way for them with our chainsaw and recovery teams getting the brush
out of the way so they can build those power lines quicker in those
The EMAs, county mayors, and the county executives—let them know that we
have the volunteers to come and help them with shelters as far as
laundry and shower facilities are concerned. We have available for
them tractors and trailers so we can help them move resources into
these areas to help out there.
We are blessed that someone has donated eighteen acres of land in the
Mount Juliet area. We have built a warehouse in Mount Juliet that
is about 20,000 square feet so we can store a lot of our equipment and
also some supplies we need to take with us. We are so very
thankful that God has provided us this piece of material to be right
here in the center of the state to move rapidly and go in any direction
to help out in disaster occurrences.
Some of the benefits of church preparedness are to be prepared and
organized to minister in a post event and knowing what to expect after a
disaster takes place and to move in and make a difference in people’s
lives until even some of the emergency responders show up and also to
participate in the community recovery.
A lot of our local churches will help people get back into their homes
and be able to do drives to help them get furniture that has been
destroyed. There are a lot of ways a community can participate.
They also help them understand and be involved in the State Convention
Disaster Relief plan and to know we are working hand in hand with not
just with other Tennessee Baptists but with other agencies as well to
cross the denominational lines and make a difference in people’s lives.
As Amy said from the very beginning it is one of those things where we
have grown quite a bit in the last four to five years. Especially
after Hurricane Katrina we have had more and more people who have become
more aware of disaster relief ministry. We ask ourselves a lot of
times—where do we go from here?
We just continue to plan and prepare and pray really hard that we never
have to use our ministry but when we do have to use our ministry we want
to be prepared to go out and make a difference in people’s lives.
Amy that is my side of the story and if anybody has questions I’ll be
glad to speak to those.
Amy Sebring: Thank you very much David. That is really
amazing capabilities that you have. I expect those hot showers are very
David Acres: They are, and those people who sleep beside those people who work all day they appreciate them too.
Amy Sebring: Folks if you have a question or care to make a comment we are now at the Question & Answer portion of the session.
Please keep your question or comment related to today’s topic and
reasonably concise. We are ready to begin now, so please enter
your comment or question at any time.
[Audience Questions & Answers]
Avagene Moore: David, thank you. I was fortunate to see
first-hand your warehouse and was impressed with your
resources. Would you please tell us about the program and
who is involved in putting together the buckets of special items for
children in disaster?
David Acres: We had a group from upper East Tennessee
that actually came up with the idea of doing ‘buckets for babies’.
In the ‘buckets for babies’ there are items that will help young
parents—diapers, baby wipes, lotions and things like that—each one of
those things has a new outfit. On the outside of the bucket it is
labeled whether it is for a boy or girl, what size or age group that
bucket fits in.
We make those available after a disaster takes place where it is at a
shelter and some will go to hospitals when children are coming in they
can present the buckets to the families and take them back home.
Each bucket represents about $50 worth of supplies. Those have
been provided by churches across Tennessee. Some of the people who are
not involved in disaster relief ministries want to make a difference in
Michael Farinacci: Where does your funding come from?
David Acres: We have a small budget here at the Tennessee
Baptist Convention that helps with upkeep. When a disaster
happens, donations come in to help us work with disasters. I must
add that when we work with Red Cross or Salvation Army all the meals we
cook—the money comes from Red Cross or Salvation Army. They pay for the
meals and we provide the equipment and volunteers. They take care
of the food we cook on the field.
Dominick Urso: Where did you get your shower units and how many people are needed to support them?
David Acres: We have people in Tennessee that build
shower units. They take it on as one of their
responsibilities. I told someone one time that somebody asked me
if we had a plan for a shower trailer and I said yes. They asked
if they could have it and I said not really. They asked how to
build it. I said that what usually happens is someone looks at one
of the units and says they can do better.
They use that kind of design to bring about a shower unit. We have
shower units with two showers and one with as many as eight in
it. We do have some very capable people who are able to do
that. There are companies out there that are building shower units
and you can Google that online. In Tennessee the American Red
Cross has brought on two shower units that are ADA approved. They
bought those from a supplier in North Carolina.
Usually two to four people can take care of the shower units. We
specify that we want someone to stay with the shower units to make sure
it is functional and make sure it stays clean. We have some senior
adult Sunday school classes that have taken on the responsibility of
providing soap, shampoo and towels for the shower units they send out
from their church.
Bill Stevenson: During response there is a frequent need for
your remarkable resources. But we typically are unaware of what is or is
not available. Do you send a representative to the State or local EOC
to help connect your resources with requirements?
David Acres: There is a person who sits in the pit at the
EOC and when a disaster happens there is a representative with the
state VOAD and they are very much familiar with what we have
available. You can make the request to the state EOC and they will
get back to us and let us know the need is out there.
Mickie Kayline: I am really astounded by the depth of your
organization's missions, services and assets. In particular I was
surprised by how you work with the power company. How did that
relationship come about? Were there any union issues or other barriers?
David Acres: Again that is relationships built at a local
level. I’m not going to say that will work in every county or
power company. This was a cooperative over in East
Tennessee. We were trying to help out. They were undermanned
and we stepped in and tried to help them. It is building a
relationship before a disaster happens.
Jim Bass: Could you please talk a bit about the relationship
between the Baptist Convention and the local emergency managers. How
formal are your partnerships, do you meet regularly to discuss
operations and exercises, etc?
David Acres: I can’t say we meet regularly. We try
to keep our names in front of local emergency management. I am a
part of the EMA in the state of Tennessee. I go to their meetings
and state convention that is coming up in September in Jackson,
Tennessee and let them know who we are as Tennessee Baptist Disaster
Relief. I wish there was a time we could meet regularly with
emergency management people and be able to help them as much as
Michael Farinacci: Are you indemnified? Are there
insurances in place in terms of liability for your volunteers and those
they serve during an emergency?
David Acres: Liability is covered under the Good
Samaritans Act to a certain extent. All our people are required to
have insurance before we go out. We do not take people out there
on the field who do not have insurance to be able to cover them.
That is put back in their hands.
Amy Sebring: What kind of technology do you use to manage your resources?
David Acres: We have a database. We call it “DREW”
(Disaster Relief Electronic Workspace). Everybody who goes through
our training is a part of our database. Even the call out
processes where we can email or text our team leaders and they can get
their teams together through the DREW system and be able to get back
with us and help us understand and know who is going when a disaster
Isabel McCurdy: David, attendance/ memberships in churches are down globally, how do you maintain your volunteers?
David Acres: I don’t say where it has affected our
volunteers. Those people who are a part of our disaster relief
ministry are some of the most committed of church people out
there. They see what the need is in their community and see the
need worldwide and they want to get involved and make a difference.
Avagene Moore: Do you have a good number of churches asking for
disaster preparedness training? Is the training for the
congregation and its facility as well as how they can help in their
David Acres: We don’t have a lot of churches calling on
that. I think there will be more because we are pushing
preparedness—not just from Tennessee Baptist but also from the North
American Mission Board which is the agency we work under as far as
disaster relief is concerned. It does go in and helps the church
understand what the needs could possibly be in the local community and
help them be prepared for it.
Amy Sebring: I wanted to mention your website and some of
the resources there. We linked to the section on the disaster
relief programs. There is good guidance there if people want to
take a look at that. [http://www.tnbaptist.org/page.asp?cat=miss&subcat=relief]
David Acres: Our website is tndisasterrelief.org and that
is very easy to go to and it helps you understand more about what we
do. It even gives a history of everything we have ever responded
to in disaster relief.
Isabel McCurdy: Are people afraid to receive your help because you are a church?
David Acres: We have had some situations where at first
they are afraid we are going to get out there and proselyte and try to
get people into our church but that is not what we are about. We are
about helping people build relationships and loving them out of the love
of Jesus Christ. We have had a lot of people who have come around
when we get in communities to work and see what we are trying to do and
know what we are about.
Lori Wieber: To what extent are your volunteers trained within
the ICS aspect of response? Do leaders receive higher levels of
Incident Command training or formal IMT (Incident Management Team)
David Acres: Our team leaders all go through Incident
Command training. We have a Southern Baptist Incident Command
training we do. We ask regular volunteers who go out if they have
the opportunity to go to the FEMA website and take the ICS 100 and 200
classes just so they understand more about what ICS is about.
Amy Sebring: You mentioned you do respond on the national level and not just Tennessee.
David Acres: We do. We’ll go wherever we are needed
in the United States. Several of our teams have been out of the
country. We went to Japan after the tsunami and Southeast Asia and
to Haiti quite a bit after the earthquake. We respond wherever we
Amy Sebring: We know you are a busy man so we will wrap it up
for today. On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our participants, thank
you very much for being with us today and sharing this information with
us, and for all you and your volunteers do. It is quite amazing.
David Acres: Thank you very much. I appreciate the
opportunity to share about Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief. If we can
ever be a help to any of you don’t hesitate to give me a call.
Amy Sebring: Great, there is contact information on your
website. Thanks to everyone for participating today and have a great
afternoon! We are adjourned.