Baltimore-Washington Conference Emergency Response Team (ERT) Trip Report – Crisfield, MD, 13-16 Nov 2012
The Baltimore-Washington ERT formed to support relief efforts in Crisfield, MD was in response to Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy. Sandy developed as a tropical depression in the western Caribbean Sea on October 22, quickly strengthened and was upgraded to Tropical Storm Sandy six hours later. After slowly moving northward toward the Greater Antilles and gradually intensifying, Sandy became a hurricane, striking first Kingston, Jamaica, followed by Cuba and then the Bahamas. On October 27, Sandy briefly weakened to a tropical storm and then restrengthened to a Category 1 hurricane.
Early on October 29, Sandy curved north-northwest and moved ashore the United States mainland near Atlantic City, New Jersey as a “post-tropical cyclone” with hurricane-force winds. In the United States, Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. In Maryland, the two areas particularly impacted were Garrett County and the city of Crisfield in Somerset County. As a result of a request by the Peninsula Conference of the United Methodist Church, a Baltimore-Washington ERT was formed to deploy to Crisfield, MD to assist in disaster relief efforts.
Crisfield is a city of approximately 2700 residents, with a median age of 37. The racial makeup of the city, based on the 2000 census was 59% white, 38% African American, and 3% other. The per capita income for the city was $12,387. Crisfield is located on the Chesapeake Bay off Tangier Sound near the mouth of the Annemessex River, and bordered to the south by the Pocomoke River. It is the southern-most town in the State of Maryland, located in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Crisfield has a protected harbor, and the downtown area rests directly on the waterfront where there is a large city pier. The municipal wharf and much of the town that rests on the shoreline, is built on a foundation of oyster shells. Somers Cove Marina is a well-maintained marina which handles local and transient boaters and is the largest state-owned marina in Maryland. Long referred to as “The Crab Capital of the World”, Crisfield has been famous for its seafood – especially its Blue Crab and Oysters, and its watermen, which was once a primary component of its economy. The extensive flood damage in Crisfield was the result of the convergence of storm and tidal surges, causing major damage through large areas of the city, including the downtown area and the city pier/wharf.
The ERT formed to support Crisfield was led by Dan Blades of St Matthews UMC in Bowie, MD. The team initially consisted of eight members. In addition to Dan, other members included Rev Bob Hunter, Forest Hill, MD; Connie McKain, Mt Airy, MD; Wayne and Pauline Reisberg, Marriottsville, MD; Bruce Shepard, Walkersville, MD; Lynne Wilmer, Baltimore MD; Doug Wallace, Severn, MD. The initial team was supplemented by Rev Nan Crews of the Eastern PA Conference, who had come down to assist in the relief effort. She joined the team on a part time basis, contributing to the team’s work effort. Additionally, the team was joined one day by Rick Harris, an ERT member from Reistertown UMC, who also contributed to the team effort.
Activities and Accomplishments
Following is a chronological rendering of the activities and accomplishments of the team during the four days of the Crisfield ERT trip.
Following a send-off prayer and blessing by Pastor Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, St Matthews’ senior pastor, 7 of the 8 team members departed St Matthews in two vehicles (Bruce’s mini-van and a St Matthews’ box truck carrying luggage, tools, and supplies) at approximately 10:00 Tuesday morning, Nov 13th. Bob Hunter, who owns a residence in Crisfield and who had volunteered to host the team, had departed earlier to prepare for the team’s arrival. After stopping for lunch in Princess Anne, the team arrived at Bob’s residence at approximately 2:00 in the afternoon.
After dropping luggage and other items not immediately needed, the team traveled to Immanuel UMC to drop off 60 winter coats donated by the St Matthews’ congregation. The coats were collected as a result of an effort by a St Matthew’s Boy Scout working on his eagle scout ranking. Also donated were 3 knitted afghans and many sets of scarfs, gloves and hats of assorted sizes from a St Matthew’s group called the “Knitwits”.
From Immanuel UMC, the team traveled to Asbury UMC to drop off 164 flood buckets and 100 health kits that St Matthews had on hand or had picked up from Mission Central at Mechanicsburg PA. While at Asbury UMC, Dan checked in with Doug Cavet, Peninsula Conference ERT coordinator on site, receiving 2 job assignments to be worked and checking out brooms, protective suits and rags from the on-site ERT trailers. Additionally, the team members signed Crisfield liability forms.
The team had dinner at Asbury UMC, who was hosting ERTs (lodging as needed and meals) coming in to assist in the disaster relief. Through a cooperative arrangement with Immanuel UMC, Asbury had agreed to provide host services to in-coming ERTs while Immanuel was providing meals to area residence needing support.
Following dinner, the team returned to Bob’s residence, where Dan hosted a team meeting. During the meeting, ERT required forms were completed. Following are other items discussed:
- Wayne volunteered to get home-owner signatures on required release forms.
- Dan distributed liability insurance policy forms for review; after review, the forms were returned to Dan for holding during the trip.
- Each team member provided funding to Dan for trip expenses ($150 per team member).
- Morning schedule was set – 7:00 for devotions, 7:30 departure for breakfast at Asbury.
- Dan distributed copies of the St Matthews Disaster Response Program brochures and discussed the program.
- Bruce discussed the importance of safety and Connie identified herself as the medical team member. Other team responsibilities included Lynne as photographer and Doug as recorder. Bob, Pauline and Doug were designated listeners although all members contributed to meeting that responsibility.
On Wed, Nov 14th, Bob began the team’s day with a devotional from John 15, focusing on the importance of humility and recognizing God as the source of successful service.
Following breakfast at Asbury, the team departed to the first job site at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Bradshaw. The team experienced a minor delay in locating the residence but thanks to Bruce’s GPS, the problem was resolved. The team also located the residence of the second job, briefly talking to Mr. Friedly and alerting him to the fact that the team would be at his house the next day.
The Bradshaw’s house was jointly owned by Diane and her brother. The Bradshaw’s had moved into the house following a fire in the previous house in which they had been living. During the Sandy flooding, water rose 5-8” into the first floor of the house, damaging most of the first floor. Our task was to complete work initiated by a previous ERT. The remaining work completed consisted of tearing out the wood floor and sub-flooring in the front living room and removing debris. The team also did some pick-up of trash around the yard.
While other team members worked at the Bradshaw site, Dan took time during the morning to draft letters for the pastor of Immanuel UMC to send to the Eagle Scout responsible for the winter coat donations and the St Matthews’ women’s group (known as the “Knitwits”) for the knitting of items donated. Dan also stopped by the Mayor’s office to discuss the work the team was performing, and possible ways to improve disaster response in the area. Additionally, Dan contacted staff writers at the Somerset Herald and Crisfield Times concerning the ERT’s work. Finally, he talked to the assistant to the Crisfield disaster response coordinator concerning disaster relief.
The team departed the Bradshaw worksite at noon for lunch at Asbury. Before returning to the worksite, the team took a short tour of Crisfield, primarily of the marina and waterfront, including the wharf and pier which had sustained substantial damage. A NPR report indicated that repairs to the wharf would not begin for several months.
The team returned to the worksite and worked until approximately 3:00 completing the assigned work. The team then returned to Bob’s house to clean up and relax until dinner. The team traveled to Asbury at approximately 6:00 for dinner, returning after dinner to Bob’s for an evening of Dominos and fellowship.
On Thurs, Nov 15th, the team again began the day with devotions around 7:00. Using the example of Caleb from the book of Numbers, Bob highlighted the importance of trusting God to do what man cannot do alone when in service to others. Following devotions, the team traveled to Asbury for breakfast.
Following breakfast, the team traveled to the worksite of Mr. and Mrs. Friedly. He was partially disabled but did small jobs in Crisfield when available. Myrna was an emergency nurse in the Crisfield hospital. Their home, like other homes flooded by Sandy’s storm surge, was elevated about two feet, but still resulted in 5-8” of water in the first level of the house, causing damage to the floors, drywall and insulation. Work in the house consisted of first assisting the Friedlys in sorting and containerizing personal items for storage. These items and salvageable furniture were removed to storage sheds that the Friedlys had in their backyard. George was able to rearrange existing items in the shed to find enough space to temporarily store items from the house. Drywall and insulation was removed from the first floor of the house up to a level of 24”, with the debris removed to the curbside. Linoleum flooring and a thin plywood subflooring also were removed. The area was then thoroughly cleaned and bleached. This effort required all of Thursday and part of Friday morning to complete.
At the request of the ERT coordinator at Asbury, Pauline took time from her work at the Friedly worksite on Thurs morning to assist the ERT coordinator in contacting clients who had submitted requests for assistance. Specifically, Pauline contacted approximately 40 clients to confirm and clarify their requirements in preparation for providing job assignments to incoming ERTs.
On Thurs afternoon, the team was visited by Percy Purnell, mayor of Crisfield, as well as Mr. Phoebus the city’s disaster response coordinator and Liz Holland, staff writer for the Somerset Herald. The group spent time discussing with team members the work being accomplished and the Mayor joined the team for photos. Dan presented the Mayor a check for $1000 from St Matthews UMC for use in Crisfield’s disaster relief efforts.
The team departed the Friedly worksite at approximately 4:30 Thurs afternoon to return to Bob’s home for clean-up and then to Asbury for dinner. After dinner, the team spent a few minutes listening to the Asbury organist practice and record for Sunday services. On returning to Bob’s home for the evening, Dan reconciled all outstanding bills and the team decided on disposition of remaining funds as follows: $400 to Asbury UMC to assist in their ministry of meal support to future ERTs; $376 to Immanuel UMC for their on-going disaster support to local residents. Additionally, Wayne and Pauline indicated that they wanted to donate $300 provided to them by their home church, Wards Chapel UMC, for use in disaster relief efforts in Crisfield. After discussing how best to use the funds, they decided to also donate the $300 to the Immanuel disaster support mission. The team also took this opportunity to present Bob a small gift purchased at the local Dollar store as a reminder of the challenges he overcame during the course of the trip; the team also presented him with a cash gift as a token of the appreciation we all felt for his willingness to open his home up to us, and thus making our stay in Crisfield so much more enjoyable. The team then completed the evening with rounds of Pitch (known in New England as Setback) and Dominos before retiring to bed.
On Fri, Nov 16th, our final day in Crisfield, the team began the day in the same way as previous days with devotions around 7:00. Reading from Chapters 12 and 13 of 1 Corinthians, Bob compared our team to the body described by Paul, and the value every team member brings to the team. More importantly, Bob emphasized the importance that love brings to our service, whether it is in Crisfield or elsewhere. The team was universally grateful for the spiritual guidance provided by Bob in his devotions each morning.
Following breakfast at Asbury, the team traveled to the Friedly worksite and completed the work at approximately 10:30. Bob and Connie had returned to Bob’s home earlier in the morning to begin clean up there, so that when the remainder of the team returned, we had only to take showers and load the vehicles for the return home. After leaving Bob’s home for the final time, the team traveled to Asbury UMC for lunch and presentation of the team donation. We then traveled to Immanuel for a similar presentation. The team departed Crisfield at approximately 1:15, headed back to Bowie. After a short ice cream break prior to crossing the bridge, the team arrived safely back at St Matthews at approximately 5:00, Fri evening.
As a way to close this report on the Baltimore-Washington ERT trip to Crisfield, included is one story from our trip that demonstrates the impact such a trip has on both those serving and those that are served. While shopping for Bob’s gift at the Dollar store on Thurs afternoon, team members were approached by a frail woman on oxygen asking the team members if they thought she would be able to obtain a tarp at the store to cover a hole in her roof. The team members immediately offered the two tarps Connie had purchased and brought down “just in case”. The woman was most grateful, and when asked, indicated she thought she could get assistance to help her secure the tarp on her roof. While at lunch the next day at Asbury UMC, the team saw the woman come in seeking assistance in getting repairs done to her home. In the process of helping her get registered for assistance, Lynne was so moved by the woman’s situation, she gave the woman her remaining funds she had brought with her for expenses on the trip, aptly demonstrating what God’s love can do.
Respectfully submitted by Doug Wallace, ERT recorder