Behind the Shield: Emergency Disaster Services

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Chris Striebel is the Emergency Disaster Services Assistant Director for the Western Michigan Northern Indiana Division of The Salvation Army and has been an active member of the response team for several state and national disasters. Striebel has worked with Emergency Disaster Services to respond to recent floods in West Michigan, an F5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, forest fires in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, fatal shootings and countless search and rescue missions. He will be heading to Oklahoma in the near future to assist in rebuilding efforts after last month’s tornadoes.

Striebel and highly-trained volunteers provide a number of services to both victims and first responders of disasters. These services can include canteen operations – which provide hot food and hydration, emotional and spiritual care for victims of the disasters and case management services to individuals recovering from disasters. Striebel stressed that whatever a community needs; The Salvation Army will do their best to fulfill the need. To illustrate this, he cited an example of bringing in family photographers to take family photos because most families in Joplin had had theirs destroyed during the tornadoes.

He also explained that participating in Emergency Disaster Services work can be overwhelming, exciting, stressful and tiring – all at the same time. “Everyone in the immediate disaster area is negatively affected in one way or another. We’re meeting people when they’ve lost the basic structure of their lives. Many times they are without food, water or shelter.”

According to Striebel, there are several training sessions volunteers need to complete in order to volunteer with Emergency Disaster Services. These classes include the basics of the Chain of Command System – how it works and why it’s important. Other classes include Canteen Operations, including how to serve food safely according to all applicable health codes. Volunteers can also take Critical Incident Stress Management Training in order to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of disaster victims and first responders.