Early Response Team (ERT) Program

Early Response Teams (ERT’s) are those United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (VIM) individuals and teams who have been trained in UMCOR’s Basic Disaster Response and Early Response Team procedures. Early Response Teams help speed the immediate response to survivors. They give visibility of our United Methodist presence, reassuring survivors that the church cares enough to immediately respond to their needs.


ERT’s fill a specific need in the early days after a disaster to clean out flood-damaged homes, remove debris, place tarps on homes, and otherwise help to prevent further damage, while providing a caring Christian presence.  ERTs are not a first-response group of emergency workers nor are they recovery, rebuild, or repair teams. Under very specific guidelines, ERTs assist survivors, without causing further harm or being a burden to the affected community.  


Program Description:

During the rescue phase of a disaster, emergency services personnel make sure that all survivors are out of immediate danger.  After this is accomplished the disaster response moves into the relief phase.  This is when ERT Teams can provide critical help in order to keep disaster survivors safe, sanitary and secure. 

ERT Teams are made up of volunteers who have the ability to deploy to a disaster site on short notice and can stay and work as part of a team for several days.  If you or your church is interested, ERT classes are offered to train individuals and build teams.  During the training participants learn the basics of disaster response, including how to stabilize and secure homes safely, and how to work effectively with survivors and others on the response team.  These skills will allow survivors the ability to get back into their homes and begin the recovery process.



ERT Processes, Duties and Team Roles:

     Deploying Early Response Teams (ERTs)


Early Response Teams follow the Disaster Response guidelines.

  1. Early Response Teams will be composed of members who have been trained, certified and recognized by the Rocky Mountain Conference Disaster Response Committee.
  2. Early Response Teams will be invited and deployed by the Rocky Mountain Conference Disaster Response Coordinator or Conference or Jurisdictional VIM Coordinators ONLY when requested by the Rocky Mountain Conference Disaster Response Coordinator or designee.
  3. Early Response Teams will be provided with information about who, when, and where to report to at the disaster site in order to receive their work assignments. The Regional Disaster Response Coordinator will be the point of contact for these teams.
  4. Early Response Teams will work under the direction and control of the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator and/or Regional Disaster Response Coordinator.
  5. Early Response Teams must be self-sufficient, meaning they must provide their own food, water, housing (tents, etc.), fuel, transportation, and tools. The Conference Disaster Response Coordinator will inform the VIM Coordinator if food, water, or housing will be available to the ERT when the ERT is requested.
  6. There is a protocol for priority deployment of trained ERTs:
  7. First: Conference ERTs
  8. Second: Jurisdictional ERTs
  9. Third: Entire denominational ERTs beyond the jurisdiction if needed.


     Primary Duties of Early Response Teams in the Relief Phase 

Early Response Teams are assigned by the Rocky Mountain Conference Disaster Response Coordinator to perform the following activities at their designated work locations: 

  1. Listen to survivors.
  2. Provide immediate assistance usually to those who are older, disabled, or persons without a support system to help with the hard work of clean-up.
  3. Remove debris
  4. Make temporary repairs to reduce future damage, make the building structurally safe, and reduce health hazards to the survivors.
  5. All temporary repairs will follow UMCOR Early Response Team training guidelines.


     Things Early Response Teams DO NOT DO in the Relief Phase


  1. ERT’s don’t make permanent repairs or begin rebuilding. To do so before insurance and government assessments are done and permission to proceed is given may reduce or eliminate any assistance from those sources. This can become a liability issue for team members, churches, and the conference if teams are thought to hinder a person’s access to benefits.
  2. Rebuilding and permanent repairs will be done by VIM teams and others that will come in during the recovery phase.
  3. Come into a disaster area without an invitation from the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator. That invitation will be issued only after the conference Disaster Assessment Team has ascertained the scope of what is needed, the safety of teams entering the disaster area, and where the greatest need might be. Out-of-conference teams do not come in until invited by the Bishop. All teams are to report to the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator, or designee for assignment.
  4. Come in unless they are trained, certified and recognized by the Rocky Mountain Conference Disaster Response Committee.
  5. Make promises. In these early days of response, no one can know how things will turn out and whether anyone from our group or any other group will be able to do anything further. Survivors are desperate, and often a maybe or we’ll check on it, can sound like a yes. Be careful.


     Early Response Team Size


The tasks to be performed will determine the size of team; however, the recommended team size is from 7 to 14 people. Local churches are encouraged to recruit and train at least three times more people than the church would deploy at a given time. This planning gives a better chance of being able to staff a full team when the need arises. It also offers the possibility of offering two or three teams at one time.


     Early Response Team Member Roles


Everyone on the team will work in debris removal and temporary repairs; however a team member should be designated to fill each of these necessary roles:


  • Team Leader
    • In charge of the Early Response Team;
    • Leader has an over-all understanding of the role of Early Response Teams;
    • Relates directly to the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator or site leader


  • Assistant Leader
    • Serves as a back-up to the team leader when the team leader leaves the work site


  • Logistics Manager
    • Helps the team find supplies and transportation;
    • Responsible for site safety, checking out the site before the team walks into an area and ensuring there is no danger to the team where they are to work
    • Responsible for making sure the team has the equipment and ability to do the assigned job


  • Base Camp Manager
    • Responsible for food, cooking, water and preparing a place to sleep if it is necessary for the team to spend the night;
    • Shops for food, creates a schedule of who cooks, cleans, etc. so that the load is shared
    • Works alongside the team during the day


  • Equipment Maintenance
    • Responsible for keeping any equipment owned by the conference in good working order;
    • Accompanies the team to the disaster site


  • Safety Officer
    • Designated to pay particular attention to the individual team members’ safety.
    • Checks that proper personal safety equipment is being used and team members performing at optimal efficiency;
    • Ensures team members take time out to rest or hydrate as necessary.


  • Listener/Team Recorder
    • Designated to be the listener to the survivors, to be the caring presence, listen to their needs and feelings.
    • This person does not provide pastoral care, but should listen to the survivors and get their story; refers survivor’s needs to members of the Conference Disaster Response Team.
    • Takes notes when appropriate, keeps all team forms and fills in necessary forms for community response. 


    Training Calendar:


Training All ERT members are trained by authorized UMCOR trainers, and are given identification badges as evidence of successful completion of the basic class.


  • Basic ERT Member Training (8 hours): Participants learn the basics of disaster response, including how to stabilize and secure homes safely, and how to work effectively with survivors and others on the response team. This standardized class is required for the basic ERT UMCOR identification badge.


  • ERT Train-the-Trainer Class (12 hours): For those who have been through the basic class and served on an ERT, their conference may recommend them to become ERT class trainers. This ERT Train-the Trainer class covers the materials as well as teaching and facilitating techniques. The class includes an opportunity for participants to teach sections of the material and be evaluated by their classmates prior to teaching a full class, and being evaluated by UMCOR personnel.


  • ERT Recertification Class (4 hours): For team members whose UMCOR badges are expiring, a recertification class is offered by the authorized trainers in the conference. This class reviews the concepts and guidelines of the basic class and provides updates on disaster response guidelines as a whole. New photos and new background checks are required, along with this class, order to be recertified.


Training is available for churches across the conference that are interested in this program.  Please contact Mike Moore at mmoore@rmcumc.com or 303 550-0036 for more information.