September 30, 2021 | by JB Brayfindley
Editor's Note: Give Now! Right now, our financial support is crucial. Our dollars make gift cards, hotel rooms, groceries, and clean water possible for our brothers and sisters affected by the Dixie Fire and their calls for help are coming.
“It’s five hours down to San Francisco where my daughter and grandkids are and only an hour and a half over to Sacramento,” said Pam Coen who traveled from Eureka, California to attend an all-day training to become a member of the Early Response Team (ERT) held on September 25, 2021, at Sacramento First UMC.
And she was not alone. After a hiatus of trainings due to COVID-19, the in-person event drew twenty new participants, more than tripling the current list of ERT members trained in the last few years.
PowerPoint slides, videos and handling equipment used on site assisted the trainees in learning the information in their paper filled manual. One breakout group activity included figuring out how to tarp a leaky roof—using popsicle sticks, blue paper, and push pins for nails on a miniature wooden structure.
The group also passed around the special masks used on clean up sites. It was moments like this and watching the videos that participants absorbed the gravity of the situations they will encounter.
“It’s about serving our community and those who are vulnerable during a disaster,” explained Cinde Dolphin of Sacramento First UMC.
“One of the ways we bring God into the world is by showing up at local assistance centers after a disaster and providing a caring Christian presence to folks who have just experience some of the most difficult times in their life,” stated Cathy Love, pastor at Grass Valley UMC.
Participants and trainers Bob Lee and Leslie Carmichael wear the bright lime green ERT t-shirts. A special name tag will be ordered for each new team member to wear on a bright red lanyard after a Safe Gatherings online background check is completed. Certification is for three years.
The Mission of an Early Response Team (ERT) is to provide a caring Christian presence in the aftermath of a disaster. ERTs typically provide assistance after the “first responders” and before recovery and rebuilding. ERTs are assigned various tasks; usually relating to safety, mitigation of further damage to property, and cleanup tasks to assist the homeowner in preparation for rebuild. ERTs also sometimes serve in Local Assistance Centers providing comfort and items such as wildfire buckets to survivors.