Disaster Response: Latest News

Updated Dec. 12, 2018

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

Get news and information about the Sept. 13, 2018 gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley

Hurricane Michael

The Alabama-West Florida (AWF) Conference is now opening the response to Hurricane Michael to badged/credentialed ERT teams from outside of its Annual Conference. This invitation is extended to Conference ERTs within the Southeastern Jurisdiction and to jurisdictions beyond, but the Disaster Response & Recovery Team Coordinator in AWF requests that ERTs check in with their C-DRC, Barbara Burnside in New England at baburnside@neumc.org, before deploying.

Important to Note: Groceries, fuel, water, and power are now widely available in the impacted areas, but not everywhere. In addition, several churches and Conference facilities received significant damage. Therefore, all ERT teams must plan on being self-sufficient. This self-sufficiency requirement extends to sleeping arrangements. The AWF Conference is not able to even offer a place to “throw down a few air mattresses.” Shower facilities are not guaranteed at this time. Hotels in the area are extremely difficult to find.

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

Donations needed

Recovery efforts in Florida, Texas, West Virginia and Louisiana are on raising money for tarps, generators, Tyvek suits, N-95 masks, wheelbarrows and hand trucks for removing furniture and appliances that are needed for the relief efforts. Donate to UMCOR Disaster Response, U.S. Advance #901670

Hurricane Florence

The South Carolina Conference Disaster Response Coordinator requested UMCOR’s assistance in extending an invitation to out-of-Conference Early Response Teams (ERTs) and we are passing this request for teams on.  SC UMC can provide housing and food for most teams.  Their current need is for muck out /ERT teams to work in the Pee Dee region of the state.  Please coordinate with NEUMC Disaster Response Coordinator Barbara Burnside for the latest updates and badged Team Leaders can request dates through the incident coordination mechanism of the SC UMC by contacting:

Chuck Marshall

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

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS: The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is partnering with the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) program and Lutheran Disaster Response to get teams to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. FEMA will pay the airfare and a $50 per diem to cover food, housing, and miscellaneous expenses for all volunteers. They are seeking team leaders, skilled volunteers, and general helpers. Teams deploy for 15 days. They are trying to fill teams for the following dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 1, 2018 and Dec. 1-15, 2018 

Get more details If you are interested contact the Mississippi UMVIM Director Wayne Jones at cwaynej57@gmail.com or (228) 596-5480.

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 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 early response phase (determining how to help survivors) of the Camp Fire, the most deadly in California’s history; UMCOR has been resourcing those responses. 

Both conferences now have moved into the long-term recovery phases from the 2017 wildfire and mud\slide disasters. Assessments are still taking place from the latest fires. 

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 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. 

  • 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.


Teams must have a Team Leader with experience in Haiti; it is highly recommended that at least 50 percent of each team have Haiti experience as well. This is based on assessments EgliseMéthodiste d’Haiti (EMH) has been doing with help from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

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

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