Landfall looming, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief on alert

Baptist Press
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Posted: Aug 26, 2011 5:22 PM
Landfall looming, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief on alert
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- As Hurricane Irene continues to churn northward along the Atlantic coast, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network is at work, alerting volunteers and planning how and where to deploy Southern Baptist DR units even before the hurricane slams into the East Coast.

Staff members at the North American Mission Board's disaster operations center (DOC) in Alpharetta, Ga., are in talks with Southern Baptist Convention disaster relief leadership in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland/Delaware, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, New York and New England, said Bruce Poss, NAMB's disaster relief coordinator in Alpharetta.

Planning also is under way with SBDR's partners in disaster relief -- FEMA, the Red Cross, Salvation Army and National VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters). Incident command locations, feeding sites and feeding capacities are now being determined, Poss said.

Hurricane Irene is projected to be a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds when it makes landfall somewhere along North Carolina's eastern coast then move up the mid-Atlantic states and to New York and Long Island over the weekend. The season's first hurricane is moving north at 14 mph, according to The Weather Channel.

Irene is expected to bring 1-2 inches of torrential rainfall per hour, wind gusts over 40 mph, significant coastal flooding, storm surge and possible tornadoes. Heavy rain -- beginning in the Carolinas -- also could impact western Virginia, western Maryland, central Pennsylvania and central and western New York. Widespread wind damage and power outages also are expected.

An estimated 65 million Americans are in the potential path of Irene. The further northeast the landfall, the greater the impact on higher-population areas and the greater the estimated financial loss.

SBDR feeding units and crews in states like North Carolina and New Jersey have the capacity to prepare from 15,000-20,000 meals a day during a disaster. SBDR leaders at NAMB and in the states also are studying deployment of chaplains, chainsaw crews, communications teams, childcare units and shower/laundry units.

"We want to stay ahead of the storm as much as possible," said Poss, adding that the disaster operations center at NAMB will be staffed beginning this weekend, with full staffing at the DOC beginning Monday, Aug. 29.

During the Hurricane Irene response, Poss said Eddie Blackmon, with the Florida Baptist Convention in Jacksonville, Fla., will serve as SBDR's liaison officer with the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C.

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.

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 largest mobilizers of trained, credentialed disaster relief volunteers in the United States, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB's disaster relief fund via www.namb.net/disaster-relief-donations and hitting the "donate" button. 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. Donations can also be sent via texting "NAMBDR" to the number "40579." A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller's mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.

Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.

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