By Brandon Elrod
Hurricane Florence has continued its trajectory toward the Carolina coastline. President Donald Trump issued states of emergency for North and South Carolina and Virginia. Residents along the coast have been ordered to evacuate.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) is working closely with state and national partners to coordinate the national Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) response, along with moving supplies from Send Relief’s warehouse in Ashland, Ky.
Eddie Blackmon, a crisis response specialist with NAMB, has been at the American Red Cross National Capital Region headquarters in Fairfax, Va. in the Washington, D.C. metro-area preparing for the initial feeding response.
“Currently, SBDR directors across all states have committed 22 mobile field kitchens with a per day meal capacity of 315,000 meals,” Blackmon said. “All of these kitchens are on standby with American Red Cross, most likely to receive an activation notice on Friday.”
Once activated, those kitchens will move from their respective states and be staged until they are assigned to feeding locations as needed.
“North Carolina, in their planning, is talking about having as many as 15-to-20 feeding sites in the state,” Blackmon said, “which means 15 to 20 churches having kitchens in their area.”
NAMB’s national SBDR office has also prepared and transported pastor packs designed for local pastors to use in service to their communities. The packs will be distributed to Baptist state conventions in North and South Carolina as well as Virginia.
The pastor packs were prepared and shipped from Send Relief’s Appalachia Ministry Center. Send Relief is NAMB’s compassion ministry arm. Along with the pastor packs that shipped Wednesday morning, NAMB has been loading semi-trucks with disaster relief supplies to be used by SBDR teams in the states affected by Hurricane Florence.
Included in the pastor packs are a generator, a chain saw and a water filter, along with various supplies needed to operate those tools.
“This is much like what we did in Puerto Rico in 2017,” said Sam Porter, NAMB’s national director for disaster relief. “These packs will go to the state conventions for them to share, especially with the small, rural churches that will lose electricity.”
In advance of Hurricane Florence, the North American Mission Board (NAMB) has sent trailers with pastor packs to state Baptist conventions in North and South Carolina as well as Virginia. Photo courtesy of the North American Mission Board
“We are sending lots of Shockwave mold remediation, lots of water and other supplies that the state disaster relief teams have asked for,” said Porter. The effects of Hurricane Florence will dictate when and where those supplies will be delivered.
Throughout the entire process, SBDR, both nationally and locally, has been cooperating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state emergency management teams along with the Salvation Army and American Red Cross.
Included in the pastor packs are a generator, a chain saw and a water filter, along with various supplies needed to operate those tools. Photo courtesy of the North American Mission Board.
“This is a collaborative effort,” said Porter. “We’re all walking in lock-step, especially given all that we experienced last year. This is potentially as destructive as anything we saw with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria.”
South Carolina SBDR teams will actually begin feeding Wednesday evening, providing meals for first responders who are staged at the North Charleston Colosseum in Charleston, S.C. ahead of the hurricane’s landfall.
“It’s a little out of the box for us, working with a pre-event,” said Randy Creamer, disaster relief director in South Carolina, but they are ready for whatever may come once the storm makes landfall.
“Because we had a 1000-year flood in 2015, a direct impact from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and Irma in 2017, our guys and gals have this fine-tuned pretty good,” said Creamer. “For mass feeding, we’re probably the best equipped as we’ve been since we got started in disaster relief ministry.”
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told Fox News Wednesday morning about the state’s response plan, mentioning the emergency shelters set up for people to ride out the storm. Cooper described the state’s decision to spread resources all across the state.
“We know that this big storm is going to be widespread” Cooper said. “Almost every North Carolinian will be affected in some way or another. So, we’ve gone on and distributed those supplies, and we’re getting ready for this thing.”
Over the last three days, FEMA has also prepositioned resources after coordinating with the leadership in states that will be affected.
“We try to fully understand their response and recovery goals or any gaps they may have in their ability to respond,” FEMA administrator Brock Long told Fox News Wednesday. “Based on that, we preposition teams, commodities—from emergency communications to water, food, whatever it may be—what we think they’re going to need to be ready to go.”
Southern Baptists will be right there alongside the national agencies providing support and helping those who make it through the storm. In addition to Blackmon’s presence at American Red Cross headquarters, NAMB has an SBDR representative embedded with FEMA as well.
“The cooperative effort of Southern Baptists means that, whether or not a Southern Baptist ever puts on a yellow shirt,” said Porter, “they’re there serving and working to meet needs in the face of the crisis because they pray, and they give.”
To learn more about how you can donate or potentially volunteer, visit www.namb.net/hurricane-florence/.
Brandon Elrod writes for the North American Mission Board.