Wednesday, 14 January 2015 16:56

Salvation Army stations community response vehicle in Swift Current

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The Salvation Army in Swift Current will be able to provide more effective emergency relief during any future disaster situations after the recent arrival of a community response vehicle.

These mobile canteen and kitchen units are stationed at different Salvation Army locations across the country to ensure a quick mobilization during a natural or human-made disaster.
According to Captain Michael Ramsay of the Salvation Army in Swift Current, this is one of three units based in Saskatchewan.
“It’s actually quite an honour for the community to be trusted with that,” he said. “These vehicles cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to get up and going. So I think it is a testimony to the volunteers that Swift Current has had through the emergency disaster services.”
In recent years Salvation Army volunteers from Swift Current assisted with flood relief efforts at Maple Creek, Melville and Weyburn in Saskatchewan as well as in High River in Alberta.
“I think when the Salvation Army sees that a community such as Swift Current is so willing to help out those in need, then they’re saying if we’re going to send this vehicle to somewhere, we’re going to send it to a community that has already shown that they’re willing and able to help out,” he mentioned.
He noted around 12 people have already been trained locally to work on a community response vehicle and this certainly was a consideration in the decision to station the unit in Swift Current.
“We’ve got a number of people who are already trained on it and we’re able to provide assistance to those in need, both in immediate crisis and in long-term crisis,” he said. “So it’s quite an honour and it’s quite a responsibility and quite a blessing. This community is wonderful, the teams we’ve already got trained on it are wonderful and so I’m sure it would get a lot of use around here.”
The vehicle’s immediate area of responsibility will include the wider southwest corner of the province from Kindersley southwards and from Moose Jaw to the Alberta border.
“We’ll be in the process of contacting all of the communities in general and their emergency coordinators in each of those towns and have them on the call out list, but other than that it’s just wherever there’s a need,” he said.
The availability and location of the vehicles in Saskatchewan will determine the Salvation Army’s response to an interprovincial request for disaster relief and assistance.
“The first priority is making sure that the community here is safe and that we can support it first, but beyond that wherever we would be needed,” he said.
The vehicle was transferred from Winnipeg to Swift Current. The safety inspection and registration of the vehicle in Saskatchewan will soon be completed and it should be fully operational within the next month.
An advantage of its location in Swift Current is that the local Salvation Army branch is not required to contribute financially towards the vehicle's maintenance and operation.
“It’s wonderful because we have this whole extra blessing of extra help that we could do and there’s no additional cost, just the cost that we incur anyway by providing support in the emergencies,” he said.
The vehicle is used as a mobile canteen to provide food and refreshments to disaster victims and emergency workers in a variety of situations, whether a local house fire, a large forest fire, during a flood or after a tornado.
At the same time the volunteers working at the vehicle are able to provide emotional and spiritual care to people affected by a disaster. It is required that at least one person on duty at the vehicle is trained to provide emotional and spiritual care.
“In our local context I see no reason why we can’t have everybody on that vehicle trained in the emotional and spiritual care aspect of it, which is helping them out with the short term crisis, identifying where to refer to for the long term,” he said. “It’s so important not only for displaced people or people going through a crisis, but it’s also very important for the frontline workers.”
Ramsay has first-hand experience in emergency disaster relief work. He was on the first rotation of relief workers after Hurricane Ike struck the Galveston area along the Texas coast in September 2008, he was on scene after the Nipawin gas explosion in April 2008 and he assisted during the Alberta floods in 2013.
He provides training in emotional and spiritual care and he has also debriefed service providers who provided relief in disaster situations.
“Often times if we don’t debrief properly, we can bring that stuff home with us and it can affect our home life,” he said. “So the emotional and spiritual care, the debriefing, all these kind of thing, it’s absolutely critical to have it attached to the food truck simply because the Salvation Army does have the training for it and we are able to train people in providing that service.”
The presence of the vehicle in Swift Current will make it easier to provide people with practical training in the provision of the the different disaster relief services.
“If there is anybody in the community who would like to help out with disaster relief, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be trained right on the vehicle,” he said. “I would really recommend it. It’s really life transformative to see the blessings that come from helping out those in a time of absolute crisis and to be able to provide that assistance to them. ... If they give us a call, we can get them perfectly trained on it, we can get them on a list of volunteers and then we’ll also look for opportunities here where we can practise.”

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