Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

VIM puts safety first with training


Participants practice chainsaw safety skills. They are Richard Norman, Ed Bevers, Kent Carbaugh, Mike Sheehan, trainer Joe Glenn, Curtis Cromwell, and Scott Stone.

Some disaster response volunteers were puzzled. Did they really need three days to learn about chainsaw safety?

In the "Storm Damage CleanUp Course," six Oklahoma volunteers came to value that time commitment.

Trainer Joe Glenn, a professional logger and woodsman, "made believers out of all of us," said Richard Norman, disaster response coordinator and associate director for Volunteers In Mission (VIM). "Joe provided many key elements for us to implement into our overall training program."

From six districts, the volunteers traveled in July to Mount Sequoyah Conference Center, a UM facility in Fayetteville, Ark. They gave their time, money, and talents to learn skills that will further enable Oklahoma United Methodists to safely, effectively serve victims of disasters.

"One of my responsibilities is to ensure the utmost security and safety conditions are met in any activity in our disaster response ministry," Rev. Norman said. "Discussion of chainsaws, their use, their safety, their liability, etc., has been at the forefront. We need to have access to expertise if we are going to provide a safe environment."

Norman emphasized:

  • Chainsaws are vitally useful and necessary tools in many disaster response situations.
  • They are among the most dangerous hand tools.

After the training, Michael Sheehan commented, "The chainsaw course is the needed, appropriate length, although I did have my doubts before we came. Richard is on the right path with his ideas of not getting the cart before the horse in disaster response." Sheehan is from Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, Tulsa.

Ed Bevers of Lindsay UMC said, "Perhaps the single most important element of this course is highlighting the need for serious thinking and evaluation of every situation and helping the student to develop capacity to do this."

From OKC-Lakeside UMC, Curtis Cromwell said, "Pre-planning should be used in every case, in order to keep every team member safe. We can use this plan as we go forward to be used for storms or whatever we are challenged."

"This was very informative and a necessary step in our evolution of the early-response capability," said Kent Carbaugh of Copan UMC. A previous class he took in chainsaws and safety equipment "did little to teach useful techniques for utilizing the chainsaw, safely and effectively, in a disaster response scenario. Having a trainer who actually used the techniques and understood what might be encountered when using the chainsaw was a lot more beneficial. Also, the hands-on experiences we had are irreplaceable."

Norman said education, leadership, and training are his top priorities at this time for effective and viable disaster response ministry. He urged interested people to contact him about participating in this type of ministry: 800-231-4166 ext. 2032, RNorman@okumc.org.



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