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OPINION

Hurricane Sandy in focus for Baptist DR

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- As cities up and down the East Coast shut down and prepare for the worst from Hurricane Sandy, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders are preparing for a large-scale SBDR response once the storm clears.
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"This has the potential to be an unusual storm," said Fritz Wilson, disaster relief team leader for the North American Mission Board. Wilson said SBDR leaders began preparation for response last week.

"We worked through the weekend to make sure we have a solid plan in place," Wilson said. "And not only a plan, but we have already begun to make sure the people to work the plan will be in place to respond and meet needs. This storm could bring a hurricane response and a winter storm response in the same event."

Wilson transported one of NAMB's recovery units to Harrisburg, Pa., Monday (Oct. 29). The Pennsylvania-South Jersey state convention's mission house in Harrisburg will serve as the area command center for the storm response. Given the wide range of possible damage and the potentially large area affected, Wilson said he fully expects multiple incident command centers to be established for the response.

Wilson said SBDR volunteers in all the affected states, and those in line to give first partnership response, were on standby Sunday, ready for activation. State Baptist conventions prepared to respond include the Baptist General Association of Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland-Delaware, New England, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania-South Jersey, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia.

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Hurricane Sandy's effects were felt along the U.S. Atlantic coast over the weekend with high winds and localized flooding, even though the storm's center was still more than 300 miles off the coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Sunday that Sandy is expected to entail a life-threatening storm surge flooding to the Mid-Atlantic coast, including Long Island Sound and New York Harbor, along with coastal hurricane winds and heavy Appalachian snows. Landfall is expected Monday night or early Tuesday morning between New Jersey and New York. Predictions call for possible landfall in Atlantic City with storm surge as high as 11 feet.

Wilson said another aspect of the storm damage could be power outages from heavy snowfall on trees that have yet to drop all of their leaves. Snowfall also could make travel for responding SBDR volunteers challenging. He asked for the continued prayers of Southern Baptists as the preparation for the storm response continues.

From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the SBC's 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

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SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or access NAMB's disaster relief fund via namb.net/disaster-relief-donations. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for "Disaster Relief."

Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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