Emergency Preparedness ministry launches second phase of training

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SAN BERNARDINO—Welcoming the launch of its second five-year ministry program plan, the Emergency Operations Collaborative (EOC) of the Diocese has announced that 3,500 teachers, catechists, ushers, parishioners and staff throughout the Diocese have completed the required mandated diocesan training in disaster preparedness and response.

 The EOC ministry program was initially created by Bishop Gerald Barnes as a response to the many natural disasters which impact the Diocese – fires, earthquakes, floods – and how the local Church can best provide pastoral care in those moments. With the hire of its first director in late 2011, the ministry program was revised to include training for man-made disasters such as dangerous persons and active shooters. 

 “The response to our training program has been remarkable,” stated Ann Marie Gallant, EOC Director. “Given today’s environment, Diocesan community members realize the importance of being trained to respond to all types of emergencies…emergencies which can occur at work, school and, sadly, at our places of worship.” 

 The one-day EOC training includes not only basic First Aid, but advanced medical triage to treat gunshot wounds, stabbings, severe injury and trauma. Attendees practice CPR on mannequins, which are also used to train the student in the use of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs). 

 “The equipment we use in our training is state-of-the-art,” comments Keri Larned, Keystone Training Solutions. “Frequently, we find that trainees are hesitant to administer CPR or use AEDs for fear of harming the injured person.

 “That is not possible with the AEDs the Diocese utilizes. The new AEDs are programmed to avoid any error unless the device is placed in the correct position on the injured, making it virtually risk-free.” 

 While the morning session focuses on medical training in disaster response, the afternoon training incorporates the latest protocols from the Department of Homeland Security in training attendees to manage and respond to dangerous persons and active shooters, more commonly known as Run-Hide-Fight.

 “This is one of the most challenging, but essential components of the EOC training for our schools”, stated Sue Long, Principal of Our Lady of the Assumption School in San Bernardino. “In this day and age, it is essential that our teachers know the correct procedures when and if faced with an active shooter on campus. EOC provides the necessary training to ensure we are keeping our children safe every day in their learning environment.” 

 The Emergency Operations Collaborative Ministry Plan focuses on the three key components of any disaster/emergency program: Preparedness – Response – Recovery. During its first five year implementation, focus has been on preparedness and response. Beyond training, parishes and schools in the Diocese have completed on-site safety and security assessments of the physical plants, in coordination with Catholic Mutual, the Diocesan insurance provider. They’ve also established on-site inventories of emergency supplies and equipment to respond in need; scheduled regular fire, earthquake and lockdown drills. More than 90 parishes and 25 plus schools have participated in the program to date. 

 “Although we are pleased with our first five-year plan results,” states Sister Sara Kane, CSJ, Chancellor of the Diocese, “we are most excited about the new programs planned within the EOC second five year program, particularly the launch of the Pastoral/Emotional Care Provider certification program, which will be part of EOC’s recovery training.”

 In coordination with the local County government agencies and the regional Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), the Diocesan EOC office has spearheaded the campaign to secure formal training of clerical, religious and lay ministers who are certified to provide emotional, spiritual and pastoral care at the disaster site. Through this certification program, these licensed ‘care providers’ will be allowed access to victims of both man-made and natural disasters, directly at the incident location, so care can be provided in real-time.

 “This Pastoral/Emotional Care Provider certification will be a true blessing to our priests, who are dedicated to assisting victims and families in their time of need.”, says Father Leonard DePasquale, pastor of St. Bernardine Parish in San Bernardino and Vicar Forane of the San Bernardino Vicariate of the Diocese. “I know first-hand the impacts of these man-made disasters, outreaching to minister to those affected by the Inland Regional Center shootings in December 2015, yet having no authority to enter the incident site to do so. I look forward to our priests and deacons sharing the Bishop’s vision in this vital area of pastoral care.”

 The Emergency Operations Collaborative ministry program is fully funded by the Diocese, to provide these and other emergency preparedness certifications and services to our Diocesan parishes and schools. 

 “We are most grateful to our Bishop for providing this critical training and assistance at no cost to our parish and our trainees,” said Gerardo Haro, a lay minister at Our Lady of Hope Parish in San Bernardino. “Our ministry team thoroughly enjoyed the training, knowing they are now prepared to address any emergency situation should it arise during service to our people.

 “We were also thrilled to have the training materials offered in Spanish, which is such a help to those who serve in this diverse community.”

 During its second five-year ministry plan, the Emergency Operations Collaborative office has established a goal of 5,000 trainees by the close of calendar year 2020! Parishes, schools and ministry leaders are encouraged to contact the EOC office at 909-475-5441 or via email at agallant@sbdiocese.org to schedule training or program assistance in creating an EOC ministry program.

 To stay safe, be prepared!