• Michelle Hartfield

Salvation Army Hosts Disaster Response Training Week

As the 2024 Hurricane Season quickly approaches, Emergency Disaster Services professionals from The Salvation Army took part in a week-long territorial summit intended to enhance their knowledge and overall service capabilities.


Partner agencies, including FEMA and Send Relief also participated with presentations on updates to the FEMA Individual Assistance Programs and Disaster Case Management and the capabilities of Send Relief and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. Salvation Army Communications and Disaster Services specialists participated in a joint session on best practices to tell stories of relief work and survivors and to highlight the humanity behind disaster work. 


Salvation Army teams from the Southern and Eastern Territories jointly presented on Emotional and Spiritual Care and the importance of caring for one’s own mental health with as much intent as we care for others. Chris Farrand, Eastern Territorial Training and Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, who co-taught the class, spoke on its importance. “By continuing to invest in the emotional, mental, and spiritual care of our own EDS responders and partner agencies, we are then able to better care for those impacted by disasters and support them as they take their steps towards resiliency and recovery. “


Another highlight of the week was the unveiling of a new custom bunkhouse trailer donated by Embassy Specialty Vehicles. The new bunkhouse provides housing for 12 people and will be positioned in Tampa, FL, ready to be deployed wherever needed. 


“We are incredibly grateful for the donation of this new trailer from Embassy because it means our disaster workers will have a safe and comfortable place to sleep while they are serving others,” said Salvation Army Southern Territorial Disaster Operations Coordinator Bobbi Geery. “From beds to lighting to storage to climate control, the design experts at Embassy have made this trailer the perfect place for our volunteers to rest and rejuvenate so that we can be at our best when helping others.”


One full day of the summit was spent conducting a table-top exercise. Leadership and Disaster Directors and professionals from each division were given a catastrophic event (based on an historical event from their division) and asked to work through their actions for preparation, response, and recovery. They were then guided through self-evaluation on their fundraising, media plans, use of resources, and overall strategy at each stage. The exercise was intended to provide a safe space for identifying gaps and developing plans to address them.


William Trueblood, Disaster Services Director for the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division spoke enthusiastically after the exercise. “This exercise was exactly what we needed. There was no pressure, but it provided a chance to really dig into our own areas for improvement and growth while showing our leadership why their support is so important.” 


The week ended with an awards breakfast where Jeff Jellets, Southern Territorial Disaster Coordinator, presented awards for length of service, for newly acquired professional certifications, and for excellence in training. “The Salvation Army has over a century of experience with disaster response,” said Jellets, “But we never stop trying to improve. Through comprehensive training, we are not only building the skills and knowledge of our personnel but also instilling the compassion and dedication that are at the core of The Salvation Army’s mission.”