Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

When disaster strikes


A volunteer works on replacing flooring in the wake of the 2019 floods in Haskell. Photo by Tabitha Beckman.

Disaster doesn’t have a particular season, but the collective minds of Oklahoma communities are tuned to thoughts of disaster during tornado season. With the 2023 storm season already in full swing, churches and congregations might be affected, directly or indirectly, by tornadoes or other storms.

When disaster strikes, it’s natural for United Methodists to want to take immediate action and help those in distress, whether in their own communities or in far-flung locales. Often, immediate action is not feasible due to local, state, and federal laws or dangers to well-meaning helpers. Confusion can sometimes slow response time.

Dana Parker, disaster response coordinator for the Oklahoma conference, created some tips for churches looking to help during disaster response.

What will your church do if disaster hits home?

In any disaster, the first step should be to contact the district superintendent and the conference disaster response coordinator (CDRC), Dana Parker.

Communication with the CDRC will help generate ideas of how a congregation can reach out to the community; give access to funding to meet immediate needs in the community; give access to OKUMC Early Response Teams that are trained for relief work and connect with other communities for needed volunteers and donations. Additionally, the CDRC will share knowledge of what is happening on a state level from Oklahoma Emergency Management, FEMA, and participating agencies.

Next, church officials should communicate with the city or county Emergency Management (OEM) and/or the city office. Practice patience while OEM crews assess damage and while the city maps out where the needs are in the community. Volunteers should keep in communication with the city/county so that, when they’re ready, efforts are coordinated and volunteers can go where they are needed.

What will your church do if disaster hits somewhere else?

Churches can reach out to a United Methodist church in that area or the CDRC to see what donations (food, water, blankets, flashlights, gift cards, etc.) might be needed. If close by, they may organize a team through the CDRC or OK Volunteers in Mission for clean-up or to serve a meal.

If the disaster is farther away, churches can raise funds to send to the relief effort. They can then plan for a team to go at a future date if further clean-up is needed, or during the recovery phase.

What can your church do to prepare for a disaster?

Churches can get prepared by electing a local disaster response coordinator during church leadership elections.

Additionally, they can utilize the Connecting Neighbors program developed by UMCOR to help members prepare a family disaster plan, develop a church disaster plan, determine the church’s assets that can be used during a disaster, and discover community partners to develop in disaster response

UMCOR Relief Supplies

Churches can assemble UMCOR supply kits, like a clean-up kit, a hygiene kit, or a menstrual hygiene kit. Kit assembly instructions can be found at https://umcmission.org/relief-supplies/.

Kits that are assembled by churches are stored in UMCOR warehouses where they are verified. When kits are needed they are requested from the warehouse. Inventory can be kept ready for use by periodically assembling and shipping kits to a regional warehouse. OKUMC does not have warehouse space for kits at this time.

For more information or assistance, reach out to CDRC Dana Parker at dparker@okumc.org or 918-510-7507.


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