(Kara WItherow for AWFUMC) - When a disaster strikes, the first 72 hours are critical.
That’s why it’s necessary, Rev. Jared Parker says, to have a system in place in order to respond efficiently and effectively.
Since late 2018, Rev. Parker has helped coordinate disaster response and recovery efforts in the Mobile District. Stepping into that role after Hurricane Michael devastated the area, he’s helped homeowners, pastors, and communities impacted by Hurricanes Sally and Zeta.
Serving as the Mobile District Disaster Response Coordinator, Rev. Parker’s main role after a hurricane, tornado, flood, or other disaster is to help assess damage, manage the relief and response effort, and communicate with all involved.
“For Sally, we had some teams come from South Carolina, North Alabama, Virginia, and from across the annual conference,” said Rev. Parker, who also serves as pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Semmes, Ala. “I would coordinate where they were going, make sure they had the supplies they needed, and help them get housing.”
One of seven District Disaster Response Coordinators in the Alabama-West Florida Conference
, Rev. Parker has a network of contacts established within congregations so that when disasters do strike, the team is ready to respond at a moment’s notice.
Regular training is critical, too, he says, to ensure that help gets where it’s needed quickly.
“Whenever a disaster hits, like Sally, it helps to be badged and certified so we can get in places like Dauphin Island.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sally, 15 churches in the Mobile District were damaged, almost every home on Dauphin Island was impacted, and minor damage was reported inland, he said.
Up before the sun, Rev. Parker would work to collect and distribute supplies, food, flood buckets, and tarps. He worked past dark most nights, in meetings, on the phone, and making sure that people who needed help were being served.
The Conference’s disaster response system is smooth, efficient, and effective, Rev. Parker said.
“Things were popping and happening that I didn’t have my hand in because of the way we have it organized. I was just kept in the loop and it was pretty cool to see it work,” he said.
But more than anything, he gave thanks for the countless volunteers who’ve served and been the hands and feet of Christ to those in need.
“Ultimately, it’s not the system, it’s people who make things happen.”