ALPHARETTA, Ga. – While so far, 2012 has been a relatively quiet year for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) on a national scale – compared to tornado-dominated 2011 – SBDR leaders at the North American Mission Board (NAMB) have used the time to significantly beef up the response fleet and prepare for future disasters sure to come.
As a result of a $1.5 million allocation by NAMB’s Board of Trustees in February, the entity’s DR fleet now includes three new 53-foot, 18-wheelers. Two of the tractor-trailers are already in NAMB’s Alpharetta, Ga., parking lot, with the third – a tractor with a refrigerated trailer –due to arrive in July. Also coming in July will be a much-needed second command center trailer.
In addition, NAMB now has four heavy-duty Ford-550 trucks to pull any of four mud-out and pressure washing cargo trailers to future disaster venues – hauling generators, tools and other equipment.
The three 18-wheelers, the four new trucks, the two command center trailers and the cargo trailers will all be “wrapped” in the familiar blue and yellow disaster relief colors, with matching logos and graphics that will clearly identify Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
“We are thrilled to be able to provide these vehicles and this additional equipment to come alongside our state partners who do such an amazing job responding to disasters,” Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president said. “When this equipment rolls into town, people will know help is on the way, but they will also know hope is on the way.”
Photo by John Swain
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers (from left) Tom Day, Jim Harper, Claude Carpenter and Cam Sutherland, all members of First Redeemer Church (SBC) in Cumming, Ga., examine one of the three new heavy-duty Ford-550 trucks and cargo trailers at the North American Mission Board, which will be used to haul disaster relief equipment and supplies to the sites of future disasters.
NAMB disaster relief team leader Mickey Caison said NAMB’s expanded fleet will serve to complement and enhance the already significant DR assets of the state Baptist conventions when major disasters strike anywhere in North America.
“While the Southern state conventions already have considerable resources depending on the scope of the disaster in their states, the emerging conventions in the North, Midwest and West are especially excited to see these additional resources made available to them,” Caison said.
“These new resources will greatly enhance our capabilities of responding in the emerging state convention areas, and it also gives them the assurance that equipment will arrive and be available for the duration of the disaster. The command center will give them an office to work out of, and satellite communications to give them instant access to phone service and the Internet until local networks are restored,” said Caison.
Caison said funds for the new vehicles and trailers resulted from NAMB budget “underspends” in 2011. “In addition, Kevin Ezell saw the tremendous needs following last year’s devastating tornadoes in Tuscaloosa (Ala.) and Joplin (Mo.)”
The new vehicles and trailers will also enable SBDR teams to better support locally hit areas because of their greater capacity to bring in more equipment and resources at one time, according to Caison.
“With the new trailers, for instance, we’ll now be able to bring in rolled, fiberglass-reinforced plastic roofing following storms and tornadoes, allowing our chainsaw teams to immediately patch roofs to prevent additional damage.”
Caison also said the new trailers’ shipping capabilities will allow the set up of “volunteer villages,” including enough tents, generators, cots and other gear to accommodate an estimated 75 volunteers in each village.
“This will be an especially important capability in the emerging states, where very often the local SBC churches are few, small and unable to house a large number of volunteers who may have deployed from anywhere in the United States.” Caison said volunteer housing was especially a problem last year during the SBDR response to massive flooding in Minot, N.D., and to tropical storms Irene and Lee.
The additional fleet vehicles also generate a demand for more volunteers, Caison said, especially those with CDLs (commercial driver licenses). “We need these people to contact us if they want to volunteer to drive the trailers to deliver equipment during a disaster response.”
Caison said several of the new SBDR fleet vehicles will be exhibited during the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, June 19-20.
For more information on how to become an officially trained Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer or to donate, visit namb.net/dr.