Austin Area Stakes Team Up with the Red Cross

Contributed By Colette McCullough, Public Affairs Director, Round Rock Texas East Stake

  • 13 May 2014

Brianne Howton, Belinda Zitzelsberger, Brick Stephenson, and Cynthia Howton work together to assess damages at the Red Cross Disaster Assessment Training.   Photo by Annie Martin.

Article Highlights

  • More than 50 Church members were trained to conduct disaster assessments.
  • The Red Cross’s relationship with the Church has been strengthened because of the many volunteers.

“As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we seek to follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in our service to mankind. We are pleased to partner with the Red Cross as we prepare to assist those in need during times of disaster.” —Kent Huntsman, president of the Round Rock Texas East Stake

AUSTIN, TEXAS

When torrential rains left more than a thousand homes in the Austin area flooded last fall, the American Red Cross of Central Texas quickly went to work to provide relief for flood victims. However, efforts were slowed because few individuals were trained to conduct damage assessments, which is a necessary requirement prior to the authorization of aid.

“After the flood, we realized the need for more people to be trained to provide disaster assessments,” explained Kevin Christensen, vice chair of Central Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). “The quicker an assessment is completed, the faster help can be provided to those in need.”

Two stakes in the Austin metro area responded to the call and facilitated Red Cross training where more than 50 Church members from the Round Rock Texas East and the Austin Texas Stakes were trained to conduct disaster assessments.

Both the Red Cross and the Church recognize the importance of preparation before disaster strikes. According to Bill Dorman, disaster services volunteer chair for the American Red Cross of Central Texas, central Texas has experienced fires, tornadoes, and flooding in recent years, and the newly trained disaster assessors can be deployed in response to a future disaster.

“When we learned a few months ago that there was a need for additional people to be trained in disaster assessment in the Austin area, we knew that our members could help,” said Robert Ferguson of the Austin Metropolitan Public Affairs Coordinating Council for the Church.

Bob Stephens, disaster assessment lead for the Central Texas Chapter of the Red Cross, said this is the first time the Red Cross has conducted training specifically for LDS Church members in the Austin metro area. The Red Cross’s relationship with the Church was strengthened in recent months when hundreds of Mormon Helping Hands volunteers helped to “muck and gut” homes affected by the floods. “Usually disaster assessment trainings are attended by a handful of people, so we are thrilled to be training more than 50 at one time,” Stephens said.

Volunteers work together to assess damages at the Red Cross Disaster Assessment Training. Photo by Annie Martin.

Volunteers at the Red Cross Disaster Assessment Training. Photo by Annie Martin.

“There are three phases in the disaster cycle: preparedness, response, and recovery. LDS members can now work as part of a damage assessment team during disaster response. Providing accurate and timely disaster assessment is essential for good planning and to verify families’ disaster-caused needs,” Dorman said.

Kent Huntsman, president of the Round Rock Texas East Stake, said, “As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we seek to follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in our service to mankind. We are pleased to partner with the Red Cross as we prepare to assist those in need during times of disaster.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a long-standing partnership with the Red Cross and the coordination of disaster planning. A third stake in the Austin metro area, the Round Rock Texas Stake, is also involved and is currently undergoing the necessary steps to have their facilities authorized as Red Cross shelter locations during times of emergency.  

Volunteers work together to assess damages at the Red Cross Disaster Assessment Training. Photo by Annie Martin.