A local chaplain corps is to assist in the efforts in the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma.
Members of the Seneca Community Chaplain Corps and the International Alliance of Chaplain Corps are to be involved in critical incident stress management and debriefing in Oklahoma starting June 3, said Tracy Elder, president and CEO of SC3.
"We're not first responders. We come in the aftermath, that's why we're there so long," Elder said. "We'll be working with the general population too, as they're going back and getting their houses together."
The corps is to be stationed between Shawnee and Moore, the two cities tornadoes hit. She said chaplains from New Mexico already are preparing to set up a command post.
SC3, which started in 2004, and IAOCC will be working for up to four months, said Elder, who might be going to Oklahoma as early as next week to begin the debriefing process.
"Once we see what other resources are necessary, we do what we can to try to meet the needs," Elder said. "Our largest mission right now will be shelter operations and assistance to law enforcement."
She said members of the corps will be "self-contained." They will take their own food and resources, so as not to be a burden to the Oklahoma communities.
SC3 and many other corps nationwide are collecting donations for the Oklahoma tornado victims, Elder said.
She said some of the money donated will go toward maintaining a command post, but "the bulk of the money is going to go into the hands of the people that are living there."
"Everybody right now is on the rescue efforts and clean-up part of it. But in the aftermath of that, there's a lot of stress and a lot of things that people are going to need that they're not going to have the money," Elder said. "Most people don't understand how interrupted life can be. You have all of those things that have to be rebuilt, and it's a lot of stress on the people at the time that it's happening. What we're trained to do as chaplains, is we're trained to speak into that stress."
Elder said there are 19 chaplains in the area who might go to Oklahoma.
SC3 sends teams of five chaplains and the teams cycle every couple of weeks, she said.
SC3 and IAOCC have helped with stress management and debriefing in several critical incidents, including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the Colorado theatre shootings and several school shootings, Elder said.
"Every incident that you've seen in the news in the last 10 years, SC3 chaplains and IAOCC chaplains have been part of that response," she said.
Elder said there is a difference between helping with terror acts and natural disasters.
"The resiliency of the American people is amazing," she said. "They always come together during crises like this. Fortunately or unfortunately we're getting better at it, with every new terrible big event that comes. We're learning more from each one, but we're coming together more."
SC3 also does a lot of debriefing for emergency service workers who are helping victims, Elder said. Chaplains also get debriefing due to the stress working in critical incidents.
"It's hot and there's bugs and there's snakes and there's no conveniences whatsoever," she said. "You're seeing people in emotional states. You're dealing with people who've lost children, and you're dealing with people who have lost loved ones and their homes. The amount of grief that these people are experiencing, you can't help but get it on you."
SC3 is one of 14 chaplain corps in the U.S, Elder said, with other corps in Washington, Alabama, Texas, New Mexico, California, Florida, Pennsylvania and other states.
She said she developed a three-day, 30-hour training program and all of the chaplains are trained the same way.
Many chaplains are volunteers, who also work with law enforcement and emergency agencies, she said.
Those who wish to make donations to the corps for the Oklahoma tornado effort can send money to PO Box 11 Tiffin, OH 44883 or visit www.iaocc.org.