By John Heading
For the first time in Ohio Disaster Relief (DR) history, the Emergency Management Association of Ohio (EMAO) invited DR to come and introduce itself at the EMAO Winter Conference recently at Salt Fork State Park.
The EMAO members are the directors of Emergency Management Agencies from each of the Ohio’s eighty-eight counties and are typically the first line of contact for Ohio DR when a disaster situation occurs within the state.
Dr. John Heading, Ohio DR director, spoke to the gathering and outlined what services DR can provide following a disaster event. Heading was also a member of a panel discussion, featuring Ohio DR, Team Rubicon, and Mennonite Disaster Relief. During the panel discussion attendees asked questions and learned more about the organizations.
The groundwork for this invitation began in the summer of 2022 when a strong windstorm, known as a derecho, hit Wayne, Tuscarawas, and Holmes counties in Ohio. Scott Klepinger, chainsaw off-site coordinator for Ohio DR, contacted Barbara Pittard, deputy director, Wayne County Emergency Management Agency, to see if they needed assistance. Pittard requested help, so a full complement of Ohio DR units deployed to Wayne County. These units included an incident management team, assessor team, chaplain team, food service team, and chainsaw recovery team.
Pittard was impressed with the work of DR during its two-week deployment. “What struck me the most was the independence, competence, and kindness of this organization and its members,” said Pittard. “The assessors arrived and went about their work. The team reached out to secure its own accommodations at a local junior high school, and team members arrived needing absolutely nothing from me. They brought their own food, cooks, bedding, trailers, tools, fuel and so forth.”
“What struck me the most was the independence, competence, and kindness of this organization and its members”
While the DR teams were serving in Wayne County, Pittard observed their behavior. “We went to the site with them to take pictures and watch them interact with homeowners. Being a Baptist organization, they welcomed the opportunity to engage in religious conversation, however, it was not forced. Many of our community members appreciated the comfort their words provided.”
Alex McCarthy, director of Tuscarawas County Emergency Management Agency and a member of the EMAO Education Committee was the catalyst for inviting Ohio DR, Team Rubicon, and Mennonite Disaster Relief to share at the EMAO Winter Conference. “Given the difference your volunteers made for our communities following the derecho back in June, we felt it was important for our colleagues across the state to learn about the capabilities you offer,” said McCarthy. “On behalf of the Emergency Management Association of Ohio, we appreciate Ohio Southern Baptist Disaster Relief’s willingness to support and educate us at our Winter Conference.”