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Citizen storm training under way

MANATEE — Following the 2004 hurricane season in which Hurricane Charley slammed across Punta Gorda and Arcadia, Nancy Kinney saw an enormous need for effective emergency response.

So she formed Bradenton-based Network of Hope, which primarily uses the church to aid disaster victims.

Network of Hope — as well as local community response teams such as the community emergency response teams in Lakewood Ranch, Waterlefe and elsewhere — are preparing this month by training volunteers and members of the church for hurricane season.

“We’ll train anybody,” Kinney said, “but our main focus is training churches to respond and care for their community after disasters.”

The use of churches during disasters, Kinney said, is advantageous for an effective response because the church is already organized with hundreds of volunteers, and is self-funded.

Plus, the abundance of churches helps cover every neighborhood. Some churches, such as the Church on the Rock in Palmetto, are ready to go. Dick Hardin, a Network of Hope representative at Church on the Rock, said about 50 members of the congregation are signed up.

“We prepare them to know what their particular role is,” Hardin said.

Network of Hope training includes early responses, re-certification for early response, ministering to the survivors of disaster, and spring training.

Through early-response training, volunteers are given knowledge on disaster response, safety and function in disaster zones and methods of dealing with survivors’ psychological problems following a disaster.

Spring training includes many areas of response from how to feed masses of victims, to advocacy and working with Federal Emergency Management Agency, a federal organization through which people get financial help following a disaster.

“I’ve personally been to (Network of Hope) classes,” said Kathy Benham, administrator at Christian Retreat Family Church. “We’re trying to get enough people onboard in order to help the community.”

For information about Network of Hope classes, call 727-3279, or visit

CERT, the Lakewood Ranch Community Response team, has trained almost 100 residents for a total of 15 response teams. CERT needs 36 teams to provide complete disaster response coverage of Lakewood Ranch, and is seeking additional volunteers.

A certified trainee attends four sessions that run about 20-22 hours total. The next courses will be held at the Lakewood Ranch Town Hall 7-9:30 p.m July 16, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 18, and 7-9:30 p.m. July 24 . Those interested can contact Vicky Horswood at

Nick Walter, Herald Staff writer, can be reached at 745-7013

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