This report provides a year to year update on the accomplishments and continued growth and effectiveness of the Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network and serves as a historical reference.
2007 – 2010 (Three-Year Pilot Program)
The Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network (FLAPDAN) was created following the hurricanes of 2004 for the purpose of connecting each presbytery disaster response effort with other efforts occurring throughout the state. A network agreement was established outlining the goals and structure of FLAPDAN.
The purpose of FLAPDAN is to address the needs of the Body of Christ during times of disaster. The goals of the Network are:
To provide a communication link between the presbyteries, Synod and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).
To address common issues of preparation, response and long term recovery following a disaster event.
To advocate for specific needs in affected presbyteries.
To identify and develop resources.
To develop and recommend protocols to be used by presbyteries in times of disaster.
To support training for disaster preparedness and response for presbyteries and their congregations.
In June 2007, funding commitments from all six Florida presbyteries plus a matching commitment from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance allowed the hiring of a Statewide FLAPDAN Coordinator to strengthen and further implement the network goals. Within this three-year period, the following has been accomplished and FLAPDAN continues to develop.
The FLAPDAN Coordinator shares disaster related information and updates as appropriate through the network. Regular activity reports are sent out to the FLAPDAN team, presbyteries, Synod and PDA. Weather related threats are closely monitored and the network is alerted to any potential impact. Although we have not had a widespread major disaster within the past three years, there have been several smaller events in which communication with the affected area is quickly established and post-disaster reports and needs are relayed through the network in order to send appropriate support. The FLAPDAN network reaches several levels.
FLAPDAN Team: There is full representation from all six presbyteries on the FLAPDAN team. This includes three voting members from each presbytery plus additional non-voting members. The FLAPDAN Executive Team consists of one member from each presbytery. The team meets
together twice a year and participates in conference calls as necessary.Disaster contact protocol between team members and presbyteries has been greatly improved and yearly test calls are conducted.Communication is maintained with the network in the face of disaster relaying critical information both pre- and post-event.
Presbyteries and Churches: Information is disseminated to presbyteries and churches through the FLAPDAN network or by direct contact. The Coordinator has made visits to each presbytery to speak at presbytery meetings, present workshops and meet with disaster committees and pastors. The Coordinator regularly attends the Peace River Presbytery Disaster Preparedness and Response Task Force meetings.
Synod of South Atlantic: Synod staff members are invaluable to the FLAPDAN network as they handle all of FLAPDAN’s financial matters and provide guidance on policy and other matters. Consultations with Ken McKenzie, Synod Disaster Coordinator, have provided great insight and support to FLAPDAN.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance: FLAPDAN has a very strong working relationship with PDA. John Robinson and staff are all very supportive of FLAPDAN. PDA has funded 50% of FLAPDAN costs for the initial three-year pilot program and has renewed their commitment for an additional three years. PDA has also funded additional travel and fees for workshops and training opportunities and has provided a Blackberry, a laptop computer and PDA logo shirts. FLAPDAN provides assistance to PDA regarding disaster issues in Florida and brings a PDA presence to local level meetings and events.
The FLAPDAN Coordinator not only networks within the Presbyterian structure, but over the past three years has developed working relationships with several community, faith-based, private and governmental organizations throughout the state of Florida. FLAPDAN holds State level membership in Florida Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (FLVOAD), and the FLAPDAN Coordinator is currently serving on the FLVOAD Executive Committee as Treasurer and on the FLVOAD Strategic Planning Committee. FLAPDAN has a Memorandum of Understanding as a partner with Volunteer Florida, the State’s Emergency Management Emergency Support Function for Volunteers and Donations (ESF 15).
FLAPDAN is also active in Florida Interfaith Networking in Disaster (FIND) and works closely with such organizations as Catholic Charities, Lutheran Services Florida, Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, United Way, County Emergency Management, the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based Initiatives, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The FLAPDAN Coordinator is locally active on the Lee County Long Term Recovery Committee. FLAPDAN also holds membership in the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association (FEPA).
Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery
Through networking, attending meetings and workshops, and participating in webinars and statewide and national conference calls, FLAPDAN continues to identify and develop resources to assist churches and presbyteries in disaster preparedness and formation of disaster plans.
The Coordinator has worked with presbyteries and their churches to develop and improve protocol, and has consulted with and provided resources to several churches around the state. The Peace River Presbytery Disaster Plan has been used as a model by other church denominations.
FLAPDAN is considered by PDA to be a model for other states and presbyteries. The FLAPDAN Coordinator has traveled to South Carolina at PDA’s request to meet with the SCaPDAN team and continues to consult with them and provide resources.
In a disaster event, FLAPDAN participates in several daily state and county-wide conference calls and that information is relayed through the FLAPDAN network. FLAPDAN works with interfaith partnerships on joint response projects such as mobile communications trailers and credentialing for volunteers. Regular participation in statewide disaster drills involving presbyteries, Synod and PDA help to test and improve protocols. Much discussion has taken place throughout the network regarding possible sites for volunteer housing and the evolving PDA Volunteer Village models.
FLAPDAN maintains contact with active Long Term Recovery Groups (LTRGs) and advocates for disaster related needs in affected presbyteries. Volunteers are recruited to assist with disaster recovery work within the state. Current disaster work is being done by such groups as Immokalee Helping Our People in Emergencies (I HOPE), Volusia Interfaith/Agencies Networking in Disaster (VIND), Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery (LASER), and St. Lucie I.N.T.A.C.T. (Inspired Network To Achieve Community Together). Clewiston’s CREW (Community Rebuilding Ecumenical Workforce) recently completed their recovery work and has shut down.
Attendance at workshops and training events has been vital to the success of FLAPDAN. The FLAPDAN Coordinator is equipped with training and tools to provide guidance and resources to churches and presbyteries and has presented several workshops around the state on disaster preparedness and the H1N1 pandemic.
The FLAPDAN coordinator is State Emergency Response Team (SERT) credentialed, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trained and member of a local CERT team, and has completed several training modules within the National Incident Management System (NIMS) framework. The Coordinator has also received training in Disaster Early Response through UMCOR, Florida Donations Portal/AidMatrix and disaster management databases, Church World Service Disabilities in Disaster, and has completed multiple training sessions on Tropical Meteorology, Hurricane Readiness for Coastal Communities, Community Disaster Response Teams, Preparedness for Immigrant and Rural Communities and several workshops at the annual Governor’s Hurricane Conferences.
FLAPDAN is funded by the six Florida Presbyteries and PDA. The initial three-year budget of $60,000 per year (covering the Coordinator’s salary and benefits, travel and office expenses) was met. The Coordinator works out of a home office to keep expenses low. During these past three years, many trips were covered by supplemental funds directly from the presbytery or church visited and PDA has provided funding for additional travel.
Partnerships between governmental, faith-based, private-sector and community organizations are vital in times of disaster. New tools and resources for disaster preparedness are freely shared. Organization and cooperation between the disaster groups help to greatly reduce duplication of efforts, enabling rapid response and efficient recovery from disaster. FLAPDAN’s connection to staff at the State Emergency Operation Center assures that information regarding disaster preparedness, response and recovery is accurate and timely.
Thanks to the support of the Florida presbyteries, Synod, PDA, and the dedicated FLAPDAN team members, the Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network has grown to become a recognized and highly valued partner in the Florida statewide network of disaster organizations.
The Florida PDA Network has continued to grow throughout the past year and additional networking has strengthened organizational relationships around the state. Several presbyteries have added representation to the FLAPDAN team, however we are currently looking for two additional representatives from Presbytery of Florida.
The FLAPDAN Coordinator is currently serving as Vice Chair of Florida VOAD and has attended the past two National VOAD Annual Conferences. This year has included PDA sponsored training on several topics including Disaster Planning with Middle Governing Bodies, Compassion Fatigue, and Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Training in Crisis Intervention, Peer Support and Emotional & Spiritual Care in Disasters.
Although many Long-Term Recovery Groups in Florida have completed their work from recent disasters, volunteers continue to look for opportunities to serve and are referred to those organizations doing disaster mitigation and rehab work, as well as opportunities through PDA in other states. FLAPDAN continues to assist churches with disaster preparedness plans and organizing disaster response teams.
2012 put our training and protocols to the test with Tropical Storm Debby and Hurricane Isaac. Through conference calls and emails, FLAPDAN team members and presbytery staff in the path of the storms shared detailed plans and contact information, while other presbyteries prepared to respond. Flooding from Tropical Storm Debby severely impacted communities in St. Augustine and Tampa Bay presbyteries. The FLAPDAN coordinator and team members are assisting the Long Term Recovery Groups in these areas, and will begin recruiting volunteers when rebuilding begins.
The coordinator is now a member of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team and has been elected Chair of Florida VOAD. Training received through these two positions, along with participation in annual conferences and meetings such as National VOAD, Governor’s Hurricane Conference, Florida Emergency Preparedness Association, FEMA Region IV conference and others has greatly enhanced the work of FLAPDAN. Participation in multi-level disaster exercises, VOAD Leadership training and UMCOR’s Disaster Case Management training has been accomplished this year. The coordinator participates in several coordination conference calls each month at the local, state and national level with other faith-based, community and governmental emergency management representatives. The coordinator also continues to promote the work of FLAPDAN by reporting at the Synod Stated meetings, speaking at presbytery meetings and church gatherings, conducting workshops, and has produced a video on FLAPDAN to be shown throughout the presbyteries.
The Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network has continued to operate within its budget and is grateful for the continued support of the Florida presbyteries and churches, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Synod of South Atlantic.
The FLAPDAN Coordinator underwent an employee review process in early 2013 and received extremely high ratings. As a result, it was recommended and voted on at the Spring FLAPDAN meeting (April 2013) to raise her salary and change her title from Statewide Coordinator to Emergency Management Specialist. The FLAPDAN budget was reworked to eliminate unnecessary expenses. FLAPDAN now has free office space, courtesy of Highlands Presbyterian Church in Gainesville, FL.
She continues to attend conferences and receive training from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team Annual Meeting, the Governor’s Hurricane Conference, the National VOAD Conference, the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association and the Florida Public Private Partnership Summit. She also participated in the State Hurricane Exercise on site at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. Having been re-elected this year as Florida VOAD Chair, her work there is highly focused on creating and strengthening partnerships between the faith-based and community groups and government emergency managers at the local and state levels. She continues to speak at churches about FLAPDAN, PDA and disaster preparedness and readily shares what she has learned from training.
She was deployed with the PDA National Response Team (NRT) to Connecticut (presenter for preparedness workshops), New Jersey (Superstorm Sandy / volunteer hosting) and Alaska (Yukon River flooding of Native villages). While in Alaska, she led training on long-term recovery. Most recently, she presented on “Whole Community Approach to Disaster Recovery” at the FEMA Region IV Individual Assistance Conference in Atlanta. Currently she is coordinating the upcoming training at the Fall FLAPDAN meeting in October. FLAPDAN members on the PDA NRT will be teaching the topic: “Responding to Human-Caused Disasters.” Invitations to attend this training will go out statewide.
Although a relatively quiet season so far, tropical weather systems this year have caused flooding and damage from downed trees in some of the Florida Panhandle counties. The local Long-Term Recovery Group is organizing the work there and local Presbyterians are being asked to assist.
FLAPDAN became a corporation in the State of Florida on July 5, 2013 and is now Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network, Inc. Synod of South Atlantic closed the books on FLAPDAN on June 30th. A check for the balance of FLAPDAN funds was sent to Andrews and Miller, PA in Leesburg, FL. Rick Miller, CPA, is on the board of FLAPDAN and has agreed to have his firm handle all of FLAPDAN’s accounting at no cost. A checking account has been opened for FLAPDAN, the funds were deposited and processes have been put in place for payroll and other bills. Central Florida Presbytery has agreed to be FLAPDAN’s fiscal agent. The Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network, Inc. is in the process of applying for 501(c)(3) status.
The spring rains of 2014 brought major flooding to the Florida Panhandle. FLAPDAN’s response to this disaster included calls and visits to affected churches and pastors, presence on the Long Term Recovery Committee, working with PDA to assess churches for volunteer hosting, coordinating Recovery Tools and Training workshops with PDA and partner organizations, and recruiting volunteer teams. As chairperson of Florida VOAD, the FLAPDAN Director worked in the FEMA Joint Field Office to coordinate response of VOAD organizations.
Although many presbyteries are struggling financially, their support for FLAPDAN continues. FLAPDAN received 501(c)(3) status this year and we are no longer dependent on Central Florida Presbytery as fiscal agent. We continue to build the FLAPDAN network through speaking engagements, presence at presbytery meetings and providing training opportunities. The Director continues to attend conferences and training at the local, state and national levels, passing on information learned to the network. Meetings and involvement at the local and state levels, including meetings with the Florida Presbytery Executives, continue to grow the relationship and emphasize the importance of the work of FLAPDAN.
FLAPDAN continued to work in the Florida panhandle with the Long Term Recovery Groups in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton and Okaloosa Counties. A PDA grant for $20,000 was written and requested through the Presbytery of Florida for the support on the Okaloosa Walton LTRO. These funds along with volunteer labor helped repair 23 homes of families who were uninsured or underinsured. The Presbytery of Tampa Bay received rains in 2015 causing major flooding in Pasco County. FLAPDAN is active on the Long Term Recovery Committee and
FLAPDAN partnered with PDA in August in the training of 26 Presbyterian Women to become Disaster Preparedness Trainers. These women will train churches and groups within their presbyteries in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Puerto Rico over the next three years.
The FLAPDAN Director continues to build relationships through networking, speaking, and training throughout the state. Although her term as Chairperson of the Florida VOAD has expired, she continues to serve ex officio on the Executive Board.
2016 brought our share of disasters here in Florida: two hurricanes, major flooding and the highest mass casualty caused by an active shooter in U.S. history. In September, Hurricane Hermine became the first land falling hurricane to hit Florida in almost 11 years, causing damage and major flooding to communities on the west coast and up through Tallahassee. Two churches in Tampa Bay Presbytery were severely impacted by Hermine. Hurricane Matthew followed in October, with downed trees, roof damage and flooding from storm surge devastating many east coast communities and causing damage to 17 of our churches in Central Florida and St. Augustine Presbyteries. FLAPDAN worked with presbyteries, churches,
Florida VOAD, FEMA and state and local emergency managers to assist local response and continues to support long term recovery with volunteers and access to resources. FLAPDAN also help to initiate grants from PDA to assist some of the damaged churches.
In June, FLAPDAN and PDA responded to the horrific Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, providing support and emotional/spiritual care to Central Florida Presbytery staff and clergy.
FLAPDAN’s Executive Director continues to be involved with training through PDA, VOAD, FEPA, Governors Hurricane Conference and other organizations. She received the Volunteer Florida “Champion of Service” award recognizing outstanding efforts in volunteerism and service.
FLAPDAN will continue to provide communication between the presbyteries, Synod, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and other faith-based, community and governmental disaster organizations addressing common issues of disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and long term recovery. FLAPDAN will continue to identify resources and provide training for presbyteries and their congregations.
FLAPDAN values the partnership with the Florida presbyteries, churches and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and looks forward to serving through disaster preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation in the coming years.