Preparing to Respond to Tropical Storm Barry

Disaster personnel from across The Salvation Army Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi (ALM) Division are gearing up to respond to the effects of what is predicted to be the first hurricane of the season. The National Hurricane Center has reported the tropical system is expected to make landfall in the next 48 hours producing heavy rainfall and flooding.

Preparation for this event began days ago when the ALM Division placed as many as 28 Salvation Army units on standby. These units are prepared, as needed, to provide disaster relief equipment and personnel to affected areas along the Gulf Coast and affected areas inland.  Service delivery will include the deployment of canteens stocked with meals, snacks and hydration and trained personnel to provide emotional and spiritual care. Each mobile feeding unit (canteen) has the capacity to provide anywhere from 500 to 1,000 meals per day.

To maintain situational awareness, The Salvation Army disaster personnel are working in close coordination with local and state emergency management partners which aids in the identification of the most affected areas and determination of entering that area when it is deemed safe to do so.

Terry Lightheart, the ALM Division Emergency Disaster Services Director stated, “Preparedness and partnerships are key to an effective disaster relief response and recovery. The Salvation Army seeks to “Do the Most Good” which includes providing much-needed resources to the communities where we serve in a time of need.”

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Lightheart takes over Emergency/Disaster Services for Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division

Terry Lightheart 1For The Salvation Army’s Emergency/Disaster Services, you hope your services aren’t needed, but you must be ready in case they are. That’s the fine line these employees walk. You may not be needed each day or even each week, but when you are called upon, you must be prepared to respond. Disaster services is all about preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation efforts.

Growing up in Canton, Mississippi, with an Army Lieutenant Colonel father, our division’s newest Emergency Disaster Services Director, Terry Lightheart says preparedness was just a part of everyday life.

“My father and mother believed in always being prepared. When we shopped for groceries, it was for a month’s supply. Living on a farm, we always had a garden and preserved what we grew. My father also kept extra supplies such as fuel, batteries, flashlights, camping equipment etc. as a backup so that our lives would not be too disrupted in an emergency,” said Lightheart.

This type of living instilled in a young Lightheart a sense of personal responsibility that launched within her a passion for preparedness as an adult.

“I realized that I wanted to be involved in emergency management as a career after becoming a disaster response volunteer for the American Red Cross following Hurricane Katrina,” said Lightheart. “An opportunity to do just that came when a full-time salaried position as the Emergency Services Manager opened. I was already actively involved as a volunteer, so I was thrilled to fill the position.”

This decision opened doors for other opportunities to serve in the emergency management profession. Prior to joining The Salvation Army family, Lightheart served as the Director for the Office of Preparedness with the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) where she oversaw the day-to-day operations of three Bureaus (Exercise, Plans and Training). In this capacity, she coordinated the efforts of the Plans Section for the State Emergency Operations Center and served as the Chair for the Governors Active Shooter Task Force. Prior to this appointment, Terry served as the Hurricane Program Manager for MEMA, and as a Senior All Hazards Planner for the Mississippi State Department of Health where she focused on earthquake, mass fatality, and non-ambulatory patient transportation planning training, coordination, and exercise.

“Through prior positions, I have had the opportunity to work with The Salvation Army,” said Lightheart. “I was impressed with how the representatives that I encountered were always willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to provide disaster relief services to those in need. It was evident that The Salvation Army was and is invaluable prior to, during and after disaster related events.”

Lightheart firmly believes that emergency preparedness is a team and community effort.  She sees her and other ALM-EDS staff primary roles and responsibilities as providing support to the Corps and Service Centers. Therefore, one of her first goals is to become better acquainted with The Salvation Army officers, local and state community leaders, and other Salvation Army family members in order to promote awareness and continuity of operations across the three state division. Several other goals include working as a team to develop a written Emergency Operations Plan,  recruitment of disaster response volunteers through training and exercise ultimately building a response team that is three levels deep to cover incident command positions during  states of emergency and as requested, to provide divisional support for disaster response and recovery efforts.

Lightheart is pleased to learn how much The Salvation Army does outside of disaster services.

“Prior to this position, I was not fully aware of The Salvations Army’s mission. I am impressed with the diversity of programs which includes a whole community concept of unconditionally serving all those who are in need through ministering and providing support for daily living. I have no reservations about being a part of this great organization and have felt nothing but welcomed by everyone that I have encountered I support the mission and I am glad to help in any way that I can.”

Terry holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Emergency Management from Jacksonville State University. She has earned the designation as a Mississippi Certified Emergency Manager (MCEM). Since 2013, Terry has served as the Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for International Association of Emergency Managers – USA (IAEM-USA). She serves on a volunteer basis as an Assessor for the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP), is a member of the Mississippi Civil Defense/Emergency Management Association, a graduate of the FBI Citizens Academy, a member of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Epsilon Pi Phi Emergency Management Honor Society.