April 1, 2011


Armed with a canteen full of supplies and equipment, Salvation Army Lt. Chris Williams and his team provide support for first responders at emergencies in the greater Derry area. 

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- While the primary focus of emergency responders is on the safety and well being of victims, Derry Salvation Army Lt. Chris Williams and his team strive to care for the caregivers.
“We’re there for the first responders,” said Williams. “Whenever they need us, we’re there providing snacks, water and coffee — coffee in the winter is a really big thing — and we’re ready to go whenever.”
Driving the signature Salvation
 Army mobile canteen, Williams or one of his volunteers arrive at the scene of area fires, natural disasters or any incidents that require extended emergency response. From the back of the canteen vehicle, Salvation Army volunteers provide refreshments to emergency personnel for as long as they remain at the scene.
And that nourishment is essential,
 said Derry Battalion Chief Jack Webb.
“It’s not just being able to
 get hot or cold drinks and food, which believe it or not is very important,” said Webb. “But you also need a period of time to get your heart rate down.”
With more than 30 pounds of protective gear and another 35 pounds of equipment, Webb said that even just 20 minutes of intensive firefighting can take a toll on personnel.
“It’s very demanding work, and you need to come out and
 have that rest,” he said. “The Salvation Army fills that role for us because if it wasn’t for them, we would have to have additional firefighters on scene to provide those rehab services and it would draw down our resources.” 
But Williams, who also serves as chaplain for the Derry Fire Department, said the Salvation Army’s emergency disaster services program is also about caring for the mental and emotional health of responders and victims alike. 
“Sometimes it’s grief counseling, and my training as a pastor comes in,” he said. “If it’s a total devastation of a house, I’m there for the first responders, but I’m also talking to the victims. If someone needs to talk to clergy, the firefighters don’t care that I’m not serving them coffee at that point.” 
In New Hampshire, there are two other Salvation Army canteen vehicles, Williams said, with a total of six covering New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. The Northern New England Division shares resources across state lines, he said, and the Derry canteen could be called upon to respond to emergencies in any part of the surrounding region. 
During Hurricane Katrina, the Derry canteen and Salvation Army team even traveled to Mobile, Ala., to help out, he said. 
“Big disasters are eye-opening,” said Williams, who went to support Katrina relief efforts from his former post in New York. “At that point, we do a lot more on the pastoral side. There are both the responders who are there, and there are the people who live there and are trying to get back into their homes. We feed them all.” 
Some disaster services funding comes from a series of grants, Williams said, but the program is largely supported by committed volunteers. 
In Derry, Williams said he has a small handful of emergency services volunteers trained and ready to go, but he’s hoping to expand the program to include two teams of about five people. 
“The idea is that you have enough of a volunteer base that there is always someone available, even if the Salvation Army officer is not there,” he said. 
And while basic volunteer requirements include driving the truck and making the coffee, he said he ideal candidate has the skills to provide comfort on the scene. 
“It takes patience and being able to function under stress,” he said. “You’re seeing people that are coming at you under stress and you need to get them to settle down, too.” 
For more information about the Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services, contact the Derry office at 434-7790. 

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