For people working in disaster preparedness, “blue sky” days are a vital opportunity for communities to build preparedness and improve resiliency before the next disaster. In emergency disaster work, “blue sky” refers to non-disaster periods and “gray sky” is the time around an incident, such as in 2016 for Hurricane Matthew and 2018 for Hurricane Florence here in North Carolina.

Catholic Charities Communications and Disaster Services Director Daniel Altenau said, “Each disaster teaches us valuable lessons and we know the question is when, not if, another storm will impact our area. So, we take this time to reflect on what we’ve learned and work with Catholic Charities USA and other disaster organizations to be ready. All disasters start and end local, so we offer trainings to the whole community, so our neighbors are ready to help each other when the time comes.”

During “blue sky” periods, Catholic Charities Disaster Services leaders and teams focus on preparedness, such as writing and practicing plans, educating the community, and taking steps to mitigate the impact of futures disasters. This is also when teams build community contacts with people at all levels of church, civic, volunteer, and government organizations so they are readily available during an incident. Preparedness and planning were reinforced recently when the Catholic Charities Cape Fear Regional team held an “Essentials for Disaster Case Managers” two-day training in Brunswick County.

Catholic Charities Cape Fear Regional Director Emilie Hart said Brunswick County VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) requested the two-day training. Brunswick VOAD formed in 2018 after Hurricane Florence severely affected the region and has remained committed to helping folks impacted by disasters.

The training tackled ten essential topics that a disaster case manager needs to know to successfully maneuver helping families through the disaster recovery process. Participants learned to accurately assess survivor needs and develop empowering recovery strategies, along with effectively advocating for available resources. Integrated into the training were hands on activities which provided participants with opportunities to practice what they just learned.

Hart said, “Under certain circumstances during disasters, other agencies might need their staff and volunteers to step into the role of disaster case manager, even when their normal responsibilities are outside the realm of disaster. The Catholic Charities network has long been viewed as experts in disaster case management, so the network created this training to share that expertise with other community members now, before the next storm comes.”

Jennifer Sherman, PhD, said the information was some of the best training she has had! Sherman is the Chief Compliance Officer with Brunswick Senior Resources, Inc. “I’ve been part of different kinds of training and know the information we learned was readily applied which reinforced what we learned,” said Sherman.

Catholic Charities has a full calendar of additional trainings happening this summer leading up to hurricane season. The Cape Fear Regional office will be hosting a series of three trainings which will focus on disaster assessments, operating points of distribution, and basic construction skills. In July, the New Bern Regional Office will be hosting this Disaster Case Management training in collaboration with the Craven County Disaster Recovery Alliance.