Scott Parrish has seen what can happen during a natural disaster. He has seen the panic, the pain and the loss.
“Our church has been helping with disaster recovery for over 15 years,” said Parrish, the pastor of outreach and missions at Trinity on the Hill United Methodist Church. “Preparedness is what can make all the difference.”
On Friday and Saturday, about 75 people attended the Augusta church’s disaster-relief training for the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Trinity invited people from Augusta churches and surrounding areas to be trained by members of the United Methodist Committee On Relief, who came from Atlanta and Oklahoma City.
“Augusta is a strategic location,” Parrish said. “If something happens in Savannah or Beaufort (S.C.), people flood into Augusta.”
Parrish said the inundation of people can cause a secondary disaster.
“We need coordination, equipment and networking avenues,” he said. “Teams of people who are ready to respond is the best way to face a disaster.”
First responders can be all kinds of people, Parrish said. They need some who can assess damage, prepare churches and tarp houses, and specially trained emotional responders who can spend time with the victims.
The first step is to become early response team certified, which was an eight-hour class Saturday. The class will be coming back to the area, said Mike Yoder, the chairman of the North Georgia Conference United Methodist Church Disaster Relief Committee.
Other courses included a damage assessment class, taught by Yoder, where he stressed how to assess the physical damage to a home, without interfering, to plan and prepare for the emergency response team to access and secure the property.
“When you meet someone at a disaster, you are meeting them in a completely different way,” he said. “They need to trust you. The most important thing you can do is listen.”
Parrish said that during a disaster, more people is not always better.
“After a disaster, there are always so many people who want to help,” he said. “But if they aren’t trained and prepared, they can add to the disaster instead of help. This training is so we can be organized should that day come.”