Oklahoma Tornado: Volunteers urged to be patient

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May 21, 2013—Concerned individuals who want to help in relief operations in Moore following the Oklahoma tornado, are urged to pray and not self-deploy to the affected area, in order to give first-responders time to complete their tasks of rescue and securing the area after especially violent storms yesterday afternoon.

Greg Forrester, executive in charge of US Disaster Response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), joined the Oklahoma Conference in urging concerned persons to stay out of the way of first-responders who are still looking for survivors of a massive, EF-4 or EF-5 tornado that caused widespread destruction, deaths, and injuries in Moore yesterday afternoon.

“Well-meaning people who arrive on-scene to help in the immediate aftermath of an event like this tend to get under foot and unintentionally divert important resources. First-responders need time to do the work of locating survivors and securing the area,” Forrester said, work that is still underway.

In a message posted to the Oklahoma Conference’s website, Richard Norman, the conference’s disaster response coordinator, underscored, “It will take time for emergency officials to assess the damages and for us to learn how we all can most effectively help meet needs.”

Forrester has been in contact with Norman and the Oklahoma Conference since the mile-wide Oklahoma tornado spun through the town of Moore, pop. 55,000, yesterday afternoon, killing at least 51 residents. It was one of at least nine tornadoes to lumber through Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, and was on the ground in Moore for a full 40 minutes.

How disaster giving works

When both the United Methodist Committee on Relief and an annual conference ask for funds, United Methodists who want to help in a disaster might be uncertain where to send donations.

Conferences may set up their own funds to help with the immediate needs of housing, food, shelter and transportation. Conference fundraising is intended for raising money within the conference to meet immediate needs.

Giving to UMCOR through The Advance, the United Methodist official giving channel, ensures that 100 hundred percent of each donation goes directly to the need specified. UMCOR’s administrative costs are covered through a separate fund supported by One Great Hour of Sharing.

Read more about how disaster giving works.

This was the second bout of severe weather to strike Oklahoma in two days. On Sunday, May 19, some 24 tornadoes tore through five states—Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois—and destroyed 300 homes. The town of Shawnee, Oklahoma, where two people died, bore the brunt of that outbreak.

The Oklahoma tornado, which touched down at about 3:00 p.m. local time, destroyed two primary schools, a hospital, and an as yet untold number of homes in the town; at least 20 children are among the lives it claimed.

The particularly tragic consequences of this storm have motivated many unsolicited volunteers to show up at the command center for rescue and relief operations in Moore.

The Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (Oklahoma VOAD), which includes the Oklahoma Annual Conference as well as other faith-based, not-for-profit, and government disaster-response groups, issued a plea that its member organizations “instruct all volunteers or groups you may come in contact with to NOT self-deploy.

“Best practices include a collaborative response, so people are directed WHEN NEEDED and WHERE NEEDED so their help and skills…will be most effective,” the statement continued.

Greg Forrester said UMCOR is ready to assist with training, funds, and consultation, once the Oklahoma Conference and local officials have had an opportunity to assess and define immediate needs. “The affected communities and conference must lead in their recovery,” he said.

For the moment, Norman said, the most important ways that concerned individuals and faithful United Methodists can help is through their prayers and financial assistance.

“Please prepare your church membership for possible VIM [Volunteers in Mission] mission service later,” he also wrote.

Relief kits will also like be needed, especially health kits and school kits. For information about how to assemble these, visit UMCOR Relief Supplies page on the UMCOR website. Kits can be sent to any of the depots in the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network. Read more about appropriate donations.

You can support UMCOR US Disaster Response, Advance #901670, with your online gift, or by calling toll-free 1-800-554-8583. To make an immediate $10 donation, text the word RESPONSE to 80888.


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