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Wake Interfaith Disaster Team History

Overview

Wake Interfaith Disaster Team was formed in 2002 and has been recruiting individual congregations and training and preparing for disaster since that time. WIDT was the Long-Term Recovery Organization for Wake County for the April 16, 2011 tornado event and with its partners addressed the unmet needs with donated materials and volunteer labor. WIDT and its faith-based and governmental partners work together to see that counseling is available, furniture is provided and other needs are met.

Many denominations work with WIDT on long-term recovery. WIDT welcomes participation of all denominations and service organizations. Volunteer labor may be available for home rehabilitation but donated building materials are problematic. WIDT welcomes financial contributions of any size and (during disaster recovery periods) donation of appropriate new building materials in bulk. Tax-deductible receipts will be provided.

2002 Founding

In 1999 Hurricane Floyd struck North Carolina. Heavy rains--17 inches--coming on the trail of Hurricane Dennis' rainfall, caused flooding in every eastern North Carolina river basin exceeding the 500-year flood levels. ainfall and strong winds affected many homes across the state, destroying 7,000, leaving 17,000 uninhabitable, and damaging 56,000. Ten thousand people resided in temporary shelters following the storm. The extensive flooding resulted in significant crop damage. The North Carolina Council of Churches, sensing the requirement for a long-term recovery of unprecedented scope, formed North Carolina Interfaith Disaster Response (NCIDR) engaged an experienced expert, Rev. Carolyn Tyler, as director. Rev. Tyler fostered the development of long-term recovery organzations in the affected eastern North Carolina counties.

In 2002, the Floyd recovery being largely completed, the NCIDR board elected to move NCIDR headquarters to Raleigh to be more centrally located in the state and to be closer to its partner, North Carolina Emergency Management. Rev. Tyler found herself in Raleigh with no long-term recovery organization and in the absence of a disaster.

Not one to spurn a challenge, Rev. Tyler recruited a few dozen representatives from a diverse group of faiths and held a series of three meetings explaining what a long-term recovery organization does, how one is formed, and why one is needed, even in the absence of disaster. Then she set the group loose. The group began a practice (still maintained) of meeting monthly and thus the Wake Interfaith Disaster Team (WIDT) was formed.

2003-2010 Interim Period

What does a Disaster Team do when there is no disaster? They train and prepare. During this period WIDT offered classes in Psychological First Aid (how to help people in shelters), Chainsaw Safety, and the Incident Command System (method of command, control, and coordination at the scene of a disaster). This was to serve Wake County well when the tornado struck.

2011 Tornado

On April 16, 2011 in the mid-afternoon, a series of about eight tornados crossed North Carolina causing severe damage and 24 deaths. One tornado swept through Wake County from southwest (Holly Springs) to northeast (Wake Forest/Knightdale), killing four. See the maps provided by Wake County Community Services and FEMA. WIDT's first action was in response to a request shortly after touchdown from the American Red Cross for shelter workers. The Red Cross was opening shelters and had exhausted their supply of available trained volunteer shelter workers. WIDT contacted nearly 200 of its trained workers and filled the need.

A few days later, NCIDR and its partner agency, North Carolina Volunteers Active in Disaster (NCVOAD) called a meeting of volunteer agencies from the affected counties. They explained that immediate needs would be filled by response-phase organizations doing sheltering, roof tarping, and mass-feeding, but long-term needs must be coordinated by a local county agency. They discussed how an agency or group of agencies forms a long-term recovery organization to carry this out.

As the meeting ended, WIDT president Larry Marks asked all agencies active in Wake County to join a short meeting. He asked whether any of the other agencies wished to carry out the long-term recovery coordination. There were no responses. Marks then stated that WIDT had been preparing for an event of this nature for nine years and would take the coordinating role for Wake County. Thus WIDT was the first long-term recovery organization to mobilize after the tornados hit.

WIDT's first action was to contact the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, now World Renew, a volunteer group specializing in damage assessment. Their team of a dozen volunteers canvassed Wake County identifying damaged residences and notifying residents that WIDT could provide help. Wake County Community Services and Wake County Emergency Management also provided helpful data.

WIDT recruited case managers. Some were volunteers; others were provided by our partners. Training was provided by the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

WIDT case managers interviewed the applicants, determined that they had exhausted other sources of help, presented their cases to the WIDT Unmet Needs Committee, and coordinated the sources of materials and volunteers from our partners to assure that homes were restored and furnishings provided. Renters were helped with replacements for lost furnishings and appliances. When the dust settled, WIDT had coordinated repair of 150 homes and helped 350 families with various forms of assistance.

Our partners in the recovery included:

  • Centro Internactional de Raleigh
  • Catholic Charities - Diocese of Raleigh
  • The Salvation Army of Wake County
  • Baptists on Mission (North Carolina Baptist Men)
  • American Red Cross - Triangle Area Chapter
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary
  • The Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina
  • North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • United Church of Christ
  • The Green Chair Project
  • Wake County Human Services

as well as several individual congregations.

WIDT concluded the recovery with a well-attended Celebration of Recovery held on April 16, 2012, exactly a year from the day the tornado struck. WIDT was the first county with major damage in North Carolina to complete the recovery.

2013-Present Interim Period

Training and preparation continue in the fortunate absence of disaster. WIDT members have volunteered to assist in other communities. See Volunteer Opportunities. Classes have been offered in Psychological First Aid, Shelter Management, and Preparing a Quality Emergency Operations Plan for your House of Worship. (see Documents for Emergency Operations Planning materials.).
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