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As Ike looms, relief workers prepare

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief leaders at the North American Mission Board’s Atlanta-area offices are working quickly to ready a relief response once Hurricane Ike makes landfall at week’s end, while scrambling to move volunteers out of Ike’s path.

Ike is expected to make its way into the open Gulf of Mexico early Wednesday and pick up strength before coming ashore somewhere on the Louisiana or Texas coast. Currently, 67 Southern Baptist disaster relief (SBDR) units from 16 state conventions are serving in Louisiana and many of those units will have to be moved in order to seek protection from Ike’s furry.

“We are looking at a Rita-like strike which is reminiscent of three years ago,” said Mickey Caison, NAMB’s adult volunteer mobilization team leader and director of operations at the Southern Baptist Disaster Operations Center. “We are developing an evacuation plan where they will be brought out of the possible impact area and then re-established after Ike goes through.”

In addition, SBDR leaders are working with the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and federal and state officials to plan a response in Ike’s expected strike zone.

“Because there is such a large population in Texas, we are developing a plan with those state conventions and our national partners on how we are going to respond there,” Caison said.

In a conference call the morning of Sept. 8, Texas SBDR leaders said plans already are being readied to open 17 hurricane evacuation shelters. If they open, Southern Baptists will be there to prepare meals and serve victims taking refuge from the storm.

“We are tasking additional units and we hope to have them on the road by Wednesday heading toward Texas and the western part of Louisiana in order to gear up and respond to those needs,” Caison said.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency as Ike headed toward the Gulf and residents of his storm-weary state wondered if they would be leaving their homes seeking shelter once again.

Meanwhile, volunteers serving Gustav victims are facing challenges left over from that storm. “The infrastructure has been damaged,” said Caison. “One of the things with Gustav is that we are having problems with fuel and propane gas and those types of things that are so important to our cooking process. So we are looking at how to mitigate those problems in the future, and as Ike comes in, we are looking at how we are going to deal with that.”

And as Southern Baptists volunteers are called upon once again, the call has to go out even wider.

“One of the problems we’ve been facing is fatigue,” Caision said. “We’ve been going at it hard all year with tornadoes and floods and ice storms. So we’ve been in a response somewhere all year long. And a lot of those volunteers have used their vacation days already.

“As we are working toward additional responses, we are looking at whether we are going to be able to mobilize enough people. What we are looking at now is mobilizing from farther away. For instance, Louisiana is running out of volunteers. We’re going to have to bring in volunteers from other states to support the Louisiana kitchens. And so as we are beginning to develop that plan, how we are going to do that effectively and efficiently is our concern now.”
Mike Ebert is coordinator of publications and media relations of the North American Mission Board. To make a donation to Southern Baptist disaster relief ministries, call toll-free 866-407-6262 or visit www.namb.net.

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  • Mike Ebert