LEBANON, Tenn. -- More than 200 disaster recovery case managers representing 17 Tennessee counties have been trained to provide long-term recovery assistance to their neighbors following the severe storms and flooding that battered the state beginning April 30. Additional training opportunities are planned for later this month.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) have delivered more than $156 million in individual disaster assistance since May. The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved an additional $170 million in low-interest disaster loans.
"We’re working hard to get Tennesseans the aid they need," said Federal Coordinating Officer Gracia Szczech. "But during every disaster we find that some survivors just need extra help getting their lives back on track."
Storm survivors inevitably look to their communities for that additional assistance. Local agencies are the first to respond when disaster strikes, and they’re also the last on the scene, partnering with federal and state agencies to ensure residents complete their recovery.
"TEMA and FEMA are encouraging every county to form a long-term recovery committee, even if they’re not dealing with a disaster right now," said TEMA Director James Bassham. "We’ve found that communities with committees recover faster and with less duplication of effort."
Recovery committees are usually staffed by case managers drawn from local volunteers. The work is challenging, with individual cases sometimes taking more than a year to resolve. In Tennessee, FEMA and TEMA have partnered with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to provide case worker training.
Christy Smith, a disaster consultant with UMCOR, has trained 224 prospective Tennessee case managers in eight free, two-day seminars since May. She says disaster case management is all about helping survivors define personal recovery goals, and then helping them find the community resources to reach those goals.
"Sometimes the (physical) walls and foundation are the most important," Smith said. "But sometimes the broken heart is the most important. Listening skills are key."
Tennesseans from the following counties have recently trained as long-term recovery case managers: Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Haywood, Hickman, Humphreys, Jackson, Macon, Maury, Montgomery, Perry, Putnam, Rutherford, Smith, Sumner, Williamson and Wilson.
UMCOR has scheduled additional recovery case manager training seminars for Oct. 14-15 at Linden in Middle Tennessee (tentative), and for Oct. 27-28 at Somerville in West Tennessee. For additional information concerning UMCOR training, contact Jason Brock at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 615-695-2765.
Available story resources:
- Photos of a Sept. 16 UMCOR class held in Lebanon, Tenn.: