Disaster Response: Latest News

Updated July 25, 2019

How can we in New England help? 

Learn more about how to help by reading Top four worst, and best, ways to help after a disaster

Solidarity with children at the border

UMCOR is calling for a Sunday of Solidarity for Suffering Children on Sunday, June 30, 2019. A special prayer for churches to use during worship, along with information on ways to be involved can be found here

Cape Cod tornado response

Disaster Response Coordinator, Barbara Burnside, was in touch with one of our churches in hard-hit Yarmouth hours after the storm hit on July 23, 2019.  Both of our churches and the Massachusetts emergency management agencies report that most of the damage resulting was downed trees and power lines that caused power outages, which Eversource estimates should be resolved by end of the day Friday, July 26.

No calls for Early Response Teams (ERTs) help have gone out. Local shelters have been opened, local emergency operations centers and Salvation Army feeding stations have opened and Wi-Fi hotspots are being provided by providers to everyone in Chatham, Dennis, Harwich, Hyannis, Hyannisport, Sandwich, and Yarmouth through July 31.

The state has called up Department of Transportation and National Guard crews to help clear roads. Only minor damage, thankfully, has been reported to structures, except one hotel with a roof torn partially off. 

Prayers for all affected are appreciated, as they recover.

Safety and Recovery Information

If you or someone you know on Cape Cod needs help:

  • Call 911 to report emergencies, including downed power lines.
  • Call 211 to obtain shelter locations and other disaster information.
  • If your home or property is damaged, take photos or videos to document your damage, and contact your insurance company.
  • If your power is out, use generators outside away from buildings and make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Be a good neighbor. Check on family, friends, and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone, those with medical conditions and those who may need additional assistance.

For more recovery resources, see: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/tornado-safety-tips and https://www.mass.gov/after-a-disaster

Midwest Flooding and Tornadoes

Please be in prayer for those in the Midwest (from the Rocky Mountains to the Ohio River Valley and some points east) who are living through the unprecedented number of tornadoes between May 17 and May 28, 2019, and continued flooding. Prayers especially for the farmers who have had so few dry days to get crops in the ground and or have had their fields flooded. 

This has led to what agricultural experts have called a historically delayed planting season, according to news reports, which has exacerbated personal and economic anxieties for farmers.  

Please remember, we must wait until the local Annual Conference has had a chance to assess its needs, set up a recovery structure, and decide whether it can handle the response with its own volunteers.

The best way to help right now is to donate to UMCOR Disaster Response U.S. Advance #901670.  Not many charities can say that 100% of your donation goes to help survivors, but UMCOR can! Click the link to find instructions for donating online, by check or over the phone.

Contact Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Barbara Burnside at baburnside@neumc.org  if you would like to be trained to help when the call for volunteers go out. 

From UMCOR: Conferences in areas hit by disasters are able to request grants from UMCOR; the first step is a solidarity (or emergency) grant of $10,000. Since March 2019, UMCOR has received and approved solidarity grants for many of our conferences in storm-impacted areas: Alabama-West Florida, Tennessee, Memphis, Great plains, Dakotas, Pacific Northwest, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Indian Missionary, and Arkansas.

UMCOR responds to natural or civil disasters of such magnitude that they overwhelm a community’s ability to recover on its own. Through UMCOR, United Methodists extend loving care to people within the United States.

When disaster strikes, it is local churches that provide the first response to their communities. This basic understanding — that disaster response is local — forms the foundation for UMCOR’s U.S. disaster training and response.

When responding to a disaster in the United States, UMCOR provides training, financial assistance, expertise, community collaboration to churches and partners making them more resilient to disasters.

Hurricane Michael

The Alabama-West Florida (AWF) Conference has moved into long-term recovery, but there is still great need for construction and debris removal in response to Hurricane Michael.  An armada of shower trailers has arrived in the conference and while churches there are starting to get involved to host volunteers, there is only housing right now in Panama Beach where they have a retreat house that accommodates 100 volunteers.  By summer, the conference expects to open some new centers in the affected areas to house volunteers.

 The conference has extended an invitation to teams of badged/credentialed ERT teams from outside of its Annual Conference, but the Disaster Response & Recovery Team Coordinator in AWF requests that ERTs check in with their C-DRC, Barbara Burnside in New England, before deploying.

Teams who wish to register should use the portal below. 

Questions should be directed to the following resources:  www.hurricanemichaelrecovery.org

A dedicated toll-free phone number has been established: (888) 942-4477. 
A dedicated email address for these efforts has been created: hurricanemichaelrecovery@awfumc.org

Hurricane Florence

South Carolina Conference Disaster Recovery needs volunteers to roof houses, repair siding, install sheetrock, repair floors and other tasks to return South Carolina families to safe situations from Hurricane Florence (Sept 14, 2018), as well as from October 2015 flooding and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Whether you can help for a couple of days or a week. Whether you have an experienced team or you want to come alone and work alongside new friends. Whether you are young or old, experienced or not, local or out-of-state.

Your time and talents are needed. To volunteer, please contact UMCSC Disaster Recovery at:

North Carolina Conference has appealed for Early Response Team (ERT) help from outside the Southeast and they will accept both regular ERT and ERT-led teams (at least one person including the leader must have ERT training). 

The North Carolina Conference requests that interested parties should first consult the Barbara Burnside, the New England Conference Disaster Response coordinator to pass on any updates about the response before teams contact disasterresponse@nccumc.org or call the NC Conference Disaster Call Center at (888) 440-9167.

For those who are more interested in rebuild, there are many opportunities in Eastern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas and Florida (see below).

ERT and VIM Teams needed for disaster response

Find teams seeking volunteers

During a disaster, things move slower than anyone would like; sometimes for good reasons, sometimes because of unforeseen complications or bureaucracies inexperienced in disaster response. It is not always easy to wait, but it takes time to put the right processes in place so that we can meet needs in ways that truly help.

So please pray for the affected areas below and that we will be shown how to be part of God’s provision, in God’s time.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico update:  Long-term recovery teams are now welcome in Puerto Rico, especially those with strong construction skills and familiarity with building codes (See story about volunteering).  But please be sure that you follow the process that has been established by with UMCOR by the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico (MCPR) and Bishop Hector Ortiz for any teams deploying to serve in Puerto Rico.  Self-deploying teams, even those working directly with local churches, can strain the system of available resources.  Volunteer teams interested in supporting Puerto Rico’s homeowners should register through the UMCOR portal, which has posted updated guidelines for serving in the long-term recovery phase Volunteer Guidelines

WEST VIRGINIA: The end of June 2016 saw 8 to 10 inches of rain fall in a 12-hour period in West Virginia with a resulting flash flood that caused 23 deaths and destroyed 5,000 homes. Individual disaster assistance grants for affected homeowners, renters and businesses were approved from FEMA for residents of 12 counties. The United Methodist Church is still helping rebuild homes and lives.  Each team/individual is asked to fill out the attached form and send back to the Disaster Response Team. After your form is received you will be contacted and scheduled for a time and location of service.  Forms should be submitted to: Rev. Dave Stilgenbauer at revdaves@yahoo.com Questions? Email him or call (304) 210-6938.

EASTERN PA: The Schuylkill County area of Pennsylvania experienced its second bout of flooding in a month. Pennsylvania VOAD is organizing crisis clean-up on 250 homes in the Eastern PA Conference. Eastern PA Disaster Response Coordinator Bob Simcox says that the United Methodist response is focused on 20 homes in the area around Tremont, Pine Grove, and Port Carbon. The Northeastern Jurisdiction (NEJ) shower trailer is being moved into position there to serve teams. Bob is requesting both early response (ERT) and long-term recovery teams from around the Northeastern Jurisdiction to help with the response beginning immediately. St. John UMC in Tremont, PA will be the host site and is allowing use of its kitchen for incoming teams. Those who can help should contact the Onsite Coordinator Suzanne Schach at jsb@epix.net or (570) 294-3748. Teams should also notify their own Conference Disaster Response Coordinators and/or Early Response Team Coordinators if they plan to mobilize. Further questions can be directed to Bob Simcox at drc@epaumc.org (610) 427-0470.  


The Florida Annual Conference reports that they have over 2.5 million FEMA registrations, and the Conference is focusing on underserved rural areas, and reports that a particularly vulnerable population is migrant workers.  All volunteers will be accepted, regardless of ERT training (untrained volunteers may be asked to handle donations management, take calls or do other office work). Individuals and teams are encouraged to register and should expect to be deployed in the southern part of the state.  John Chickering took a group of volunteers to the Keys in January 2018 when Florida was just starting to accept teams in that area.

The Texas Annual Conference (Houston and north Gulf Coast) asks that volunteers should be over age 18, Safe Sanctuaries certified, and at least one member of the team should be ERT trained.
Rio Texas
June 20-21, 2018 torrential rain hit the Rio Grande Valley in the Rio Texas Conference. Over 7,000 homes were affected by the flood. Teams from any conference are welcome, and should register at https://riotexasresponse.org/volunteer-for-ert/ 

Teams will be contacted to make further arrangements. We anticipate needing ERT teams for at least one or two months. The areas affected were primarily in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties, especially the towns of Mercedes and Weslaco. Several churches in the area have accommodations suitable for housing teams, including showers and kitchens. Restaurants are open throughout the area.  Inquiries can be directed to Disaster Response Coordinator Gene Hileman aehileman@riotexas.org or to Jim Street at jim@jimstreet.com


The Louisiana Conference is mostly finished with muck-outs from Hurricane Harvey and is still working with 17 long-term recovery groups on the 2016 flood damage, but with no federal disaster declaration, they are particularly dependent on volunteers and donations.

California Wildfires

Both California-Nevada (Cal-Nev) and California-Pacific (Cal-Pac) Conferences are in the long-term recovery phase for the Camp Fire, the most deadly in California’s history; UMCOR has been resourcing both conferences for these responses. 

Both conferences now have moved into the long-term recovery phases from the 2017  and 2018 wildfire and mud\slide disasters. 

Cal-Pac disaster responders are working with various disasters, including fire (e.g. Lilac Fire near San Diego), flooding, and volcanos in Hawaii.

Cal-Nev responders are dealing with response to the Carr (Shasta, Mariposa, Riverside counties), Mendicino (Lake, Mendocino, Napa counties), Ferguson (Mariposa & Yosemite areas), Cranston (Shasta, Mariposa, Riverside counties), Holy (San Diego, Riverside , Orange counties), Klamathon (Siskiyou County), and Pawnee (Lake County – the fifth in four years) fires.  There are immediate needs for teams in Lake and Mendicino Counties.

  • In Cal-Nev, contact the new Disaster Response Coordinator Sonja Edd-Bennett for more information about the rebuild.  
  • In Cal-Pac contact Judy and Doug Lewis for more information about volunteering.

Haiti update

The U.S. State Department has lowered the threat level in Haiti, however a recent mission journey by one of our long-time Haiti missioners demonstrates that caution is still advised. Conference UMVIM co-coordinator Susan Baker was advised by her hosts to end her trip early because of uprisings that were making travel to the airport difficult and they worried about her safety - that was two days before the threat level was lowered June 11, 2019. Susan has offered to talk with any team leader thinking of going to Haiti, and says the ongoing protests may impact teams’ ability to leave the country on schedule.  Also, please plan for possible flight changes, which can have significant financial impact.

Read an update from NEJ UMVIM in the June 2019 Servant's Journey e-newsletter

Volunteer opportunities

Mission trip opportunity in Guatemala
Works of Grace, a Maine-based nonprofit, in partnership with Salud y Paz, a health and education organization located in Camanchaj, Guatemala, is offering a nine-day educational service experience from Oct. 26 to Nov. 3, 2019. The trip includes basic hands-on work at the Suzanna Wesley School and Salud y Paz clinic alongside Guatemalans; experience a Guatemalan market, historic site, life in a local town or city during the week, a weekend in Panajachel or Antigua, and so much more. 

Preparation for the experience includes team meetings, shared readings on the history and culture of Guatemala and on ways to enhance our own cross-cultural experience. For many this is a personal spiritual pilgrimage leading to lifelong memories and change.
Accommodations are local hotels. Most meals are in local restaurants or at the hotel. Lunches are on the job site. We travel by van or bus while in Guatemala. Travel to and from Guatemala and in country, lodging, meals, interpreters, fees, and team guides are included in the price of $2,000. A minimum of 10 persons is needed to complete a team. Provisions for a smaller team can be arranged for a higher per-person cost. 

Registration deadline is Aug. 15, 2019. For more information see www.worksofgrace.org or contact trip leaders Sharon Lovejoy smnlovejoy@gmail.com or Michael Davis mikebwd@gmail.com     

Find other volunteer opportunities

UMCOR relief supplies 

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018 UMCOR depots began only accepting hygiene (health), school, and cleaning kits.  The kit components were changed in June 2018 (Please check new lists before assembling new kits).  Kits can be delivered to a conference drop-off location or to any UMCOR affiliate warehouse near you. Click the link to find information about UMCOR depot affiliate locations.

Disaster Relief/Volunteer Opportunities

Saipan needs your ERT and construction skills Typhoon Yutu hit Saipan (the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands) in October 2018. The people of Saipan are waiting to get out of tents or temporary shelters and into their homes. You can help by joining a two-week UMCOR specialized team during the summer and fall 2019

Teams are a blend volunteers from U.S. conferences with a focus on either construction professionals or construction-savvy members to rebuild trusses and tin roofs.

You will need to:

  • have a current passport good for up to six months beyond deployment dates;
  • the ability to climb and work on ladders; 
  • be in excellent health; 
  • be able to tolerate the extreme heat and humidity. 

Flights, accommodations and some expenses are covered through FEMA “invitational travel” for those who qualify through a volunteer application process and hold a current Early Response Team badge. 

To get a volunteer application and Yutu fact sheet, contact Kathy Bryson, Yutu Project Coordinator, Cal-Pac Conference, at pnwumcert@gmail.com

Opportunities in June & July 2019 for Home Repair Teams in Dover, DE Wesley United Methodist Church in Kent County, DE, in partnership with Milford Housing Development, invites you to do home repair work in the Dover, Delaware and the surrounding Kent County community for low-income elderly and disabled homeowners. Projects are directed by Milford Housing and mission team accommodations are provided by Wesley UMC.  All supplies and tools are provided, as well as project supervision. Learn more and get necessary forms

Contact Barbara Burnside at baburnside@neumc.org for other mission journeys requesting additional volunteers.