The evolution or “life cycle” of a disaster is best described as an ebbing and flowing series of disruptions to a community. There are four degrees of magnitude in terms of size/impact (levels I, II, III, and IV) and three commonly recognized stages of disaster response (rescue, relief, recovery). While United Methodists respond at all levels and phases, we are most active during the relief and recovery phases with our greatest strength in the last phase of long term recovery.
Four Levels of Disaster Magnitude Geography and amount of devastation determine the extent of response and classification as a disaster “level”. Each level has a direct correlation to whether or not and what type of help will be needed beyond the local community.
A local or localized small disaster affecting one to roughly 30 households, such as a toxic spill, explosion, air crash, tornado, or limited flooding. Determining factor of involvement beyond the local church: Is this within the ability of the local church(es) to respond to with little or no conference and UMCOR assistance? Local pastors advise the District Superintendent when the relief effort exceeds the local congregation’s resources; the District Superintendent requests assistance from the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator.
A medium-sized disaster affecting about 30 to 150 homes, which could be caused by localized flooding, a moderate earthquake or tornado, a small hurricane or tropical storm. . Determining factor for involvement beyond the local church: Is this beyond the ability of the local congregations and community to respond? If conference and UMCOR resources are needed, then the Rocky Mountain Conference considers this disaster to be at least a Level II. Local pastors advise the District Superintendent when the relief effort exceeds the local congregation’s resources; the District Superintendent requests assistance from the Conference Disaster Response Coordinator.
A large disaster which could be caused by widespread and/or long-term flooding, severe earthquakes, tornados, or hurricanes with significant damage. Disasters of this size in terms of geography and/or severity are usually eligible to receive a State Declaration of Disaster or a Presidential Disaster Declaration. Disasters at this level require full mobilization of the Rocky Mountain Conference Disaster Response Group.
A Catastrophic Disaster, which is defined by Public Law 93-288, as “An event resulting in a large number of deaths and injuries; extensive damage or destruction of facilities that place an overwhelming demand on state and local response resources and mechanisms; a severe impact on national security facilities and infrastructures that sustain them; a severe long-term effect on general economic activity and severe effects on State, local and private sector initiatives to begin and sustain initial response activities.” Martial law will be declared and access to the impacted area will be severely limited. It would be expected that a number of people in the Rocky Mountain Conference leadership positions will probably be victims of this disaster. The entire Rocky Mountain Conference Disaster Response would be mobilized. Assistance may be requested from adjoining Conferences and/or Jurisdictions.
UMCOR designees may be necessary to fill slots of those in conference leadership who are victims and unable to function. A conference-wide appeal for funds, appropriate in-kind donations, and volunteers will be made. UMCOR grant money will be required and Volunteer in Mission (VIM) Early Response Teams, along with Information and Referral workers will be needed. The entire Rocky Mountain Conference Disaster Response organization must be mobilized.
When a disaster happens the response moves through phases with the first being the rescue efforts that provide emergency care and secure the disaster site. That is followed by a relief phase of getting people into short-term housing, clean-up, taking measures to protect what is salvageable, and developing plans to rebuild. The last phase is the long-term recovery when homes and communities are rebuilt.
Each disaster phase is typically 10 times longer than the previous phase, so if the rescue phase lasts 3 days, the relief phase will be 30 days and the long term recovery phase 300 days.
1. RESCUE/EMERGENCY PHASE: Lead by trained and professional state and local emergency management groups, this phase begins at the time of impact, or if there is forewarning from the time of evacuation, until people have been found, accounted for, the danger of continued destruction is over, and some kind of shelter is available to all survivors.
• United Methodist get involved at this phase to begin planning for the relief and long term recovery phases, provide congregational and neighbor-to-neighbor care, and serve as trained volunteers with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.
• Those local United Methodist Churches who, prior to the disaster have a written agreement with the American Red Cross, can use their facilities as American Red Cross shelters during this phase.
2. RELIEF PHASE: This phase is characterized by the need for cleanup, temporary repairs, and securing valuables. Short-term solutions are put in place to help survivors re-establish their lives until longer term recovery strategies are available. The local community always leads this phase which integrates federal, state, and local governmental agencies, plus the many organizations who are members of Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD).
3. RECOVERY PHASE: The Long Term Recovery stage is a time when permanent repairs and rebuilding take place. Most of the long-term recovery work is done by community-based social service recovery groups. Often faith-based groups represent a number of the religious bodies. United Methodists remain active in the long term recovery, bringing our resources of volunteers, financial aid, materials, and expertise to assist in the recovery. The lead actors in this stage are again local, the local people and the local church, aided by others when the local community cannot recover on its own.