By Caleb Hennington

Digital Content Editor

Disasters don’t schedule appointments, which is why the team behind the upcoming Disaster Response Academy is making it easier than ever to be prepared when a disaster eventually makes its way to your community.

The Disaster Response Academy is a 4-day event, Jan. 29 – Feb. 1, 2020, that seeks to prepare attendees with all of the information and training they need to assist in the immediate and long-term cleanup process after a disaster strikes.

Taking place at Trinity United Methodist Church in Little Rock, the event is a partnership between the Arkansas Conference Disaster Response and Volunteers in Mission Ministries, as well as the United Methodist Church’s national UMCOR ministry.

“The next disaster will strike at any time. Our goal in presenting this academy is to enhance Disaster Response Ministry by building capacity and capability for response and recovery,” said Janice Mann, co-coordinator for the Arkansas Conference Disaster Response and Volunteers in Mission Ministries.

The Academy will focus on four main areas of disaster recovery, including the local church’s response; early response to disasters; long-term recovery; and the importance of local church, district and conference leadership’s coordination when a disaster occurs.

“Participants will gain awareness of the different aspects of the ministry, be trained in how to respond appropriately and in the most effective ways, and have the opportunity to hear from experts in the field,” said Byron Mann, co-coordinator for the Arkansas Conference Disaster Response and Volunteers in Mission Ministries. “We will worship, network, and fellowship together, all while learning from the best of the best in the field.”

The Manns said that since the 2014 Central Arkansas tornado outbreak that tore through communities in Mayflower and Vilonia, they have had little to no breaks from disaster events, both large and small. In 2019, in addition to tornados and severe storm damage, the Manns were heavily involved in the immediate and longterm response to the historic Arkansas River flood, which devastated communities from Fort Smith to Pendleton.

One of the areas in which the Manns are needing more help is local volunteers. There is usually a shortage of volunteers when it’s time to assist a disaster zone. This is one of the many ways that the Academy can prepare local churches for future disasters.

“We hope and pray that every local church would consider sending at least one participant,” Janice said.

Besides training volunteers, the Manns are hoping that this Academy encourages local churches to start their own disaster response ministry. The more churches involved in some type of disaster response ministry, the easier it will be to mobilize volunteers and response to affected areas.

“Everyone should be more aware of this important ministry, who it helps, how it helps, and how it works in general. We hope and pray every local church will consider disaster response as a part of your church’s ongoing ministry.”

To sign up for the Disaster Response Academy, visit http://bit.ly/disaster-response-academy. You can also find a schedule of events on the sign-up page.