Disaster Preparedness & Response

The new Eastern PA Conference’s Disaster Response Leadership Team:

(From left) The Rev. Nick Camacho, who heads the Helping Puerto Rico Rise Again campaign; Robert Simcox, new Disaster Response Coordinator; the Rev. Russell Atkinson, new Volunteers in Mission Coordinator and Ben Botti, Disaster Response Leadership Team Advisor.

Prepare to join Volunteers
Our conference Disaster Response & UMVIM leadership team urges anyone who wants to explore disaster recovery ministry anywhere to attend the second UMVIM Team Leader and Early Response Team simultaneous training events on Saturday, Oct. 20, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM, at Otterbein UMC in Lancaster. Persons interested in growing and helping others through a potentially life-changing mission encounter are urged to learn more and register now via the conference website.

Not if, but when.

A crisis can happen anytime, anywhere. Planning before, response during and recovery after crises are all critical stages to lessen the severity and longevity of the damage that may occur–that is, structural, physical and emotional damages.

The Eastern PA Conference has key persons and protocols that victims of crises–especially disasters–can call upon for timely, sensitive, experienced assistance. We have a conference Disaster Response Team and District Coordinators ready to help, along with District Superintendents and the Communications Office. All church leaders should learn about disaster response news, information, responders and resources, as well as steps to prepare and response to disasters.

More flood damage prompts appeal for help in North District

By John W. Coleman

Disaster struck again in Tremont and surrounding towns in Schuylkill County this week. Rainstorms produced flooding in communities throughout our region that some say is worse than the deluge caused by Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

Bishop Peggy Johnson is asking for Eastern PA Conference churches to respond with monetary donations and volunteers to assist in disaster recovery efforts. Donations to the conference’s Disaster Recovery Advance Special Fund (Project #0345) can be addressed and sent to the Conference Treasurer’s Office (Eastern PA Conference UMC, P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482.)

Gifts to support the ongoing efforts of St. John’s UMC Tremont and other area churches in the North District’s western region can be labeled specifically “North District Flood Relief.” District Superintendent Steve Morton delivered $3,000 in district emergency funds Monday to St, John’s UMC to aid in its immediate support for Tremont residents flooded out of their homes just three weeks ago. Much more is needed. (See “Connectional team to respond to local flood disaster” story.)

Some who were able to get back into their homes found themselves underwater again this week. In Tremont 19 homes were flooded this time.

Experienced VIM disaster recovery teams needed asap

Disaster Response Coordinator Robert Simcox is seeking Volunteers in Mission (VIM) work teams and individuals who can go in and start “mucking out homes” this Saturday. “Any teams with experience, please contact me,” he said. Contact him at drc@epaumc.org or 610) 427-0470.

Meanwhile, the conference will receive a $10,000 emergency grant from UMCOR (UM Committee on Relief) to help St. John’s UMC “alleviate human suffering through aiding households.” The church was not damaged but has set up as a disaster information center and hopes to welcome recovery work teams to its neighborhood soon. “The congregation has taken a leadership role in the response,” Simcox said. Learn more.

Leaders of the Tremont disaster recovery team met August 3 at St. John’s UMC: (from left) Robert Simcox, Suzanne Schach, the Rev. Ken Edwards, Dwain Hotstetter and the Rev. Rick Rimert.

The Rev. Lorraine Heckman, pastor of First UMC in Port Carbon tells the Rev. Steve Morton, North District Superintendent, about the flood devastation. Photo courtesy of the Rev. Jennifer Freymoyer.

Conference, churches rally to recover from recent floods

Donations, volunteers needed for disaster response

By John W. Coleman

“The Eastern PA Conference is operating in full disaster response phase,” said Disaster Response Coordinator Robert Simcox this week. “We are supporting the Schuylkill County area in flood relief.”

The problem is, he added, experienced, volunteer work teams and individuals are direly needed to help clear damaged, molded items out of flooded homes and perform related tasks, as county residents struggle to recover physically and emotionally from a recent double-drenching of relentless rain storms.

“Volunteers are needed immediately now and in the coming year,” said Simcox. “They will be working with the community in the recovery and rebuilding phase.” That work includes listening to and consoling residents to help them overcome the emotional toll of the storms’ destruction. Read more…

Also, read the Rev. Jenny Freymoyer’s journal account of what she witnessed and felt during her visits to North District disaster sites last week: Churches, communities of hope ‘make room for a new future’.

Call new flood recovery hotline for aid through end of August: Pennsylvania residents trying to recover from recent rainstorm flooding have a place to turn for help. The state has a new, temporary disaster response hotline phone number they can call through the end of August. Governor Tom Wolf recently announced the emergency contact service. Learn more…
Eastern PA Conference Disaster Recovery Updates
  • The Virginia Conference will loan its remarkable shower trailer to the Eastern PA Conference and St. John’s UMC in Tremont for use by disaster response volunteers after their labors. The 48-foot-long trailer includes nine showers, four sinks and two washer/dryers. The two conferences will share the $1,500 roundtrip transfer costs, while the town provides water, drainage and an electrical connection. “We will keep it till November,” said Eastern PA Conference Disaster Recovery Coordinator Robert Simcox. “Freezing will become a problem in winter.”
  • The Eastern PA Conference’s Disaster Response Trailer is being restocked to go on location to Tremont for use by volunteers.
  • UMCOR released 1,200 cleaning kits (formerly called “flood buckets”) to the conference from UMCOR’s Sager Brown (Baldwin, La.) and Mission Central (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) supply depots. The kits were delivered to a Red Cross depot at Norristown State Hospital and a high school in Susquehanna County.
  • Families relocated from Puerto Rico to the Philadelphia and Reading areas “are sleeping better on beds we delivered to them recently,” according to Eastern PA Conference Disaster Recovery Coordinator Robert Simcox. The beds were purchased through a $10,000 emergency grant from UMCOR to support the unmet needs of evacuees from Puerto Rico.

Special Appeal: Puerto Rico

Volunteers are urgently needed to help the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico as they recover from the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Registrations are now being taken for Early Response Teams (ERT) and Long-Term Recovery (LTR) Teams.  ERTs should be in contact with their Conference Disaster Response Coordinator first.

Interested teams are encouraged to visit this link to express their interest in serving: Intent to Serve in Puerto Rico

Additionally, UMCOR will be updating the following webpage with information as it becomes available: www.umcor.org/UMCOR/puerto-rico-volunteers


Robert Simcox
Eastern PA Conference Disaster Ministry Coordinator
(610) 427-0470

Rev. Russell Atkinson
Volunteers in Mission Coordinator
(610) 675 – 7187

Rev. Nick Camacho
EPA Conference Project Coordinator for Puerto Rico Recovery

Support Disaster Response Ministry

The Advance Special Project Number for people wishing to donate to support the Eastern PA Conference’s general disaster response work is: #0345. But use #0345PR to support the Helping Puerto Rico Rise Again campaign, which aids the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico’s efforts to recover from devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.  Thank you for supporting this vital ministry work.

Crisis Preparation and Response Plan for EPAUMC churches
  • What is a crisis? – A crisis can be an event or emergency associated in some way with the Church but beyond its control, wherein there is potential for damage to individuals or to the image of the Church and its ability to be in ministry and which we might expect to become public. Read more.
Church Preparation for Hurricanes
  • All trained ERT members are asked to be on standby for activation within our conference.
  • Inform congregation members to prepare a disaster kit.
  • Set up system to check on homebound members, elderly or those with chronic illnesses in your congregation.
  • Read more…
Preparedness Resources for Houses of Worship
  • Includes: Emergency Operations planning resources, Active Shooter preparedness resources, free online independent study courses for everyone, and more. Continue
Churches Dealing with Disaster
Disaster Response News & Information

This three-day training prepares faith leaders or institutional chaplains to volunteer as disaster chaplains in mass-care settings or to serve as disaster chaplains within their house of worship, religious community or professional institution. Each registrant must be endorsed for this training and/or currently serve as a professional chaplain and/or credentialed religious leader.

This three-day training prepares faith leaders or institutional chaplains to volunteer as disaster chaplains in mass-care settings or to serve as disaster chaplains within their house of worship, religious community or professional institution. Each registrant must be endorsed for this training and/or currently serve as a professional chaplain and/or credentialed religious leader.