ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -– While 2012 has been a relatively quiet year so far for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief on a national scale -– compared to tornado-dominated 2011 -– SBDR leaders at the North American Mission Board have used the time to expand Southern Baptists’ response fleet for future disasters sure to come.
As a result of a $1.5 million allocation by NAMB’s trustees in February, the board’s disaster relief fleet now includes three new 53-foot 18-wheelers. Two of the tractor-trailers are already in NAMB’s Alpharetta parking lot, with the third –- a tractor with a refrigerated trailer –- due to arrive in July. Also coming in July will be a much-needed second command center trailer.
In addition, NAMB now has four heavy-duty Ford-550 trucks to pull any of four mud-out and pressure washing cargo trailers that would haul generators, tools and other equipment to future disaster sites.
“We are thrilled to be able to provide these vehicles and this additional equipment to come alongside our state partners who do such an amazing job responding to disasters,” Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president, said. “When this equipment rolls into town, people will know help is on the way, but they will also know hope is on the way.”
Mickey Caison, NAMB disaster relief team leader, said the expanded fleet will complement and enhance the state Baptist conventions’ already significant DR assets.
“While the Southern state conventions already have considerable resources depending on the scope of the disaster in their states, the emerging conventions in the North, Midwest and West are especially excited to see these additional resources made available to them,” Caison said.
The three 18-wheelers, four new trucks, two command center trailers and cargo trailers will all be “wrapped” in the familiar blue and yellow disaster relief colors, with matching logos and graphics that will clearly identify them as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
When a major disaster strikes anywhere in North America the expanded fleet will bring not only resources for the people in need but also better communications for the relief workers.
“These new resources will greatly enhance our capabilities of responding in the emerging state convention areas, and it also gives them the assurance that equipment will arrive and be available for the duration of the disaster,” Caison said. “The command center will give them an office to work out of and satellite communications to give them instant access to phone service and the Internet until local networks are restored.”
Caison said funds for the new vehicles and trailers resulted from NAMB budget “underspends” in 2011.
“In addition, Kevin Ezell saw the tremendous needs following last year’s devastating tornadoes in Tuscaloosa (Ala.) and Joplin (Mo.),” Caison said.
The new vehicles and trailers also will enable SBDR teams to better support disaster victims because of the units’ greater capacity to bring in more equipment and resources at one time, Caison said.
“With the new trailers, for instance, we’ll now be able to bring in rolled, fiberglass-reinforced plastic roofing following storms and tornadoes, allowing our chainsaw teams to immediately patch roofs to prevent additional damage,” he said.
Caison added that the new trailers’ shipping capabilities will allow the set up of “volunteer villages,” including enough tents, generators, cots and other gear to accommodate an estimated 75 volunteers in each village.
“This will be an especially important capability in the emerging states, where very often the local SBC churches are few, small and unable to house a large number of volunteers who may have deployed from anywhere in the United States,” he said, noting that volunteer housing was a problem last year during the SBDR response to massive flooding in Minot, N.D., and to tropical storms Irene and Lee.
The additional fleet vehicles also generate a demand for more volunteers, especially those with commercial driver’s licenses.
“We need these people to contact us if they want to volunteer to drive the trailers to deliver equipment during a disaster response,” Caison said.
Several of the new SBDR fleet vehicles will be exhibited during the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, June 19-20.
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board. For more information on how to become an officially trained Southern SBDR volunteer or to donate, visit namb.net/dr. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).