JOPLIN, MO — The warning “Execute Condition Gray!” blared through the halls of St. John’s Regional Medical Center. Personnel per protocol began rolling patients’ beds into the hallways. However, this was no drill. Near the ER’s glass doors Kevin Kikta, an emergency physician on duty, looked up to see a stunned security guard tearing down the corridor shouting, “Take cover! We’re gonna get hit!” Seconds later, on May 23, 2011 the entire nine-story building was pummeled by the tornado. Glass shards exploded from every window, doors blew of hinges, and patients’ IV-lines were ripped from their arms.
“You must help my baby now!” cried Amanda German. Moments after the strike she screeched to a stop at the stricken ER. Dr Kikta examined the child and found a deep chunk of his neck muscle torn away exposing bones in the boy’s spine. “You’re going to be OK, buddy,” Kikta told the boy, applying pressure to his bleeding wound. Then the doctor looked around himself, doubtfully. Rain was pouring in, the lights were out, natural gas sickened the air. Kikta realized a spark could cause the hospital to blow.
The next hours witnessed a massive response that alleviated Dr. Kikta’s worst fears. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon: “The response from Kansas City (the closest metro area) to help the people of Joplin is tremendous. Along side public safety agencies, several faith-based organizations are putting their faith into action.”
The Joplin catastrophe caused more deaths than any tornado in United States history. With disasters due to fire, flood, hurricane, heat, blizzard, and explosion predictably common, public disaster managers increasingly recognize the critical role played by non-government bodies. Regarding Joplin, Richard Serino, the Deputy Administrator of FEMA, noted “84 different volunteer groups served 134,000 meals and gave 275,000 hours of service with 41,000 volunteers. Who organized them? “Not FEMA,” Serino said. “Other volunteer organizations.”
Is your faith-based community or civic organization prepared for the next local disaster? Have you appointed leaders, organized teams, trained your personnel, and pre-arranged necessary equipment and supplies? What steps have you taken to become recognized and welcomed to participate in crisis response?
Anticipatory action is essential. For this reason, INMED is offering a Crisis Response Training event on Friday, March 16 to addresses emergency sheltering, feeding, emotional services, volunteer safety, and more. This opportunity will help your team leap into action when calamity strikes and another mother cries “You have to help my baby now!”