As Hurricane Laura barreled towards the coast of Louisiana, Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) volunteers were busy preparing to provide whatever assistance might be needed. Last week ABSC DR Director Randy Garrett took time to sit down and walk us through the timeline of the week of preparation leading up to the storm making landfall. [Click here to read the article on preparing for the storm] This week he gives us an inside look at the inner workings of a disaster relief deployment immediately following the storm.
Thursday August 27
Laura makes landfall at 1:00 am near Cameron, LA as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 miles an hour. The storm causes extensive damage as many roofs and walls are damaged, trees are toppled, power poles are broken, and signs are torn from the ground. Over 500,000 people in Louisiana were left without power. The Louisiana Department of Health reports that more than 220,000 people were facing water system outages meaning that they had no access to water.
Laura is downgraded to a tropical storm as it makes its way to Arkansas. Garrett had planned to set up feeding units in Arkansas to assist with storm damage. The units were not needed after all as the impact of the storm in Arkansas was not as severe as first thought. Plans are made to redirect resources towards assisting Louisiana with disaster relief efforts.
Assessments begin to pour in from Louisiana detailing the damage. Garrett talks with Gibbie McMillan, DR Director for Louisiana to assess the damage and formulate a plan. Five locations are chosen as staging areas for the hurricane relief effort. Arkansas DR is assigned to the city of Lake Charles with Trinity Baptist Church serving as their host church and staging area.
Garrett takes part in the daily conference call with DR directors from around the state to pray and organize the relief efforts. This meeting is hosted by Sam Porter, National DR Director.
Friday August 28
DR volunteers continue to make preparation to travel to Louisiana.
Garrett holds daily 2:00 pm conference call with state DR leaders. The group works to identify potential issues with vendors in getting supplies. Garrett points out that these issues are to be expected in the confusion and chaos of a major disaster relief effort. “You can imagine the issues that are likely to come up when you go from nothing to a major operation in such a short time.”
Saturday August 29
An Incident Management Team (IMT) member from Arkansas arrives to begin preparation for the arrival of the Incident Management trailer. The Arkansas IMT will oversee the relief efforts for all teams serving in Lake Charles.
The Incident Management Team consists of the following roles and responsibilities:
Incident Commander – sets objectives and priorities, has overall responsibility for the incident.
Operations – conducts direct ministries to carry out tactical operations for the disaster response and the local organization and directs all resources of the operation.
Logistics – provides support, resources and all other services to meet the incident needs.
Planning Coordinator – responsible for looking ahead and planning the relief efforts 2-3 weeks in the future.
Garrett takes part in the daily conference call and continues to talk and plan with Louisiana DR leaders as well as answering phone calls from Arkansas DR volunteers.
Sunday August 30
Incident Management Team, chaplains, assessors, and feeding volunteers arrive on site at Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles. Preparations begin for work on Monday.
Communications Team members arrive. Due to the damage caused by the hurricane, landlines are down and the cell signal is weak. These Arkansas volunteers work to establish communications across the area using ham radios and repeaters to boost the cell signal and extend its range.
Monday August 31
The feeding team begins preparing and serving meals using the Louisiana Baptist State Convention’s Feeding Unit 001. 600 meals are prepared and served.
Tuesday September 1
Garrett arrives on site and begins working on issues with supplies. He meets in person with leaders to discuss plans for the coming days and weeks.
Feeding operations were ramped up and 7000 meals were prepared and served.
Wednesday September 2
Over 200 work requests have been logged at the site. Garrett says that DR will be on site for “a while.” Chainsaw teams from Louisiana are already out working.
Chaplains and assessors are busy praying, sharing and assessing needs to help determine what jobs will be done and how many volunteer teams will be needed in the future.
Garrett anticipates at least 10,000 meals will be served today.
Garrett notes that social distancing guidelines are being followed during the deployment as a result of Covid-19. Volunteers have their temperatures checked and logged each day. Serving lines have been set up and food is packaged in individual clamshell containers. Survivors drive up, get out of the car, pick up their clamshell and drive off. There is no direct contact with the public while food is being served.
Watch for more information in the coming days as we continue to follow the ABSC DR team during this current deployment. Remember that your prayers and gifts to the Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions Offering help make the ministry of Disaster Relief possible. As we enter into our week of prayer for Dixie Jackson Arkansas Missions beginning this Sunday, September 6, please take time each day to pray for Randy Garrett and the selfless volunteers who give their time to minister to the survivors of major disasters like Hurricane Laura. Pray for those survivors and pray that God will be glorified and His kingdom will grow as a result of all that’s done in the days and weeks ahead.