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Daviess County EMA to help launch ‘faith-based disaster response team’

Damage to homes in Mayfield after the December 2021 tornado outbreak.
Derek Operle
Residents sort through debris in the aftermath of a tornado that hit Muhlenberg County on Dec. 10, 2021.

TheDaviess County Emergency Management Agency (DCEMA) has begun the process of forming a “faith-based disaster response team.”

DCEMA is a unit of Daviess County government tasked with preparing for and responding to natural and man-made threats, emergencies, and disasters.

The agency is now working to form a new coalition of faith-based groups and churches to aid in the response and preparation of those disasters.

“The whole community approach is what it takes to build resiliency, and if we don’t build that whole community approach, when a disaster does hit, the general public is not going to know what to do,” said Chris Cunningham, Deputy Director of DCEMA.

He told WKU Public Radio that the initiative builds upon recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“In 2018, FEMA released apublication to engage faith-based communities with local emergency management offices to better prepare for times of disaster and times of need. We’re basically taking the foundation that was laid by FEMA almost 10 years ago and making it relevant today."

Cunningham noted that the tornadoes that struck neighboring areas in Kentucky and Tennessee within the last few years played a part in getting the ball rolling.

He added that having local volunteers assist the county EMA will allow aid to get to the community faster in times of need.

“There are only so many emergency management workers, only so many city and state workers, so there is a gap that needs filled, and that’s what we’re trying to do with this: fill that gap.”

FEMA recommends local EMA offices create Community Lifelines to promote a unified effort across the whole area, which is what Daviess County officials hope to accomplish. Churches involved with the group will each have a designated responsibility, or “lifeline.”

“You may have one church that has a debris management team where they can go out and clear roads and move tree limbs. You may have another team that is the spiritual and emotional care piece of the lifeline, where they just love on people,” Cunningham said.

He added that while the county government is helping with the initial training and startup of the group, they will not be leading it. Rather, each team will be led by their own church and activated by the Daviess County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) when the need arises.

An organizational meeting will be held on Saturday, Feb. 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Legacy Owensboro Church.

Disaster response training will also be provided by the Owensboro Fire Department during the session.

Attendees do not need to be affiliated with a faith-based group to attend but should RSVP by calling the DCEMA office at (270) 685-8448.

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