Emergency Response Team
Since 1994, AmeriCorps St. Louis' Emergency Response Team has assisted communities in disaster relief in over 30 states and more than 65 of Missouri's 105 counties. In our local Missouri community, we've responded to incidents such as state-wide flooding, ice storms, and tornadoes, including the 2011 Joplin tornado. On a national level, we've responded to incidents such as the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City, Hurricane Katrina, and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
AmeriCorps St. Louis' Emergency Response Team (ERT) consists of a highly skilled and thoroughly trained group of diverse individuals from all over the country. We utilize trainings from the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and best practices from Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) so that each member is fully equipped and ready to deploy to impacted communities in a moment's notice.
In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, members of the ERT focus on the critical unmet needs of the affected community, particularly those of vulnerable populations. Throughout a deployment, members could be involved in any of the following:
In 2017 alone, ERT was involved in 7 different disaster deployments, including the wildfires in Tennessee, tornadoes in Perryville, Kansas City, and Ottawa/Naplate, the floods in Missouri, Hurricane Irma in Florida, and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Members offer individual assistance by providing structural repairs after disaster, including:
After the tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, in 2013, AmeriCorps St. Louis assisted 6,729 property owners throughout the recovery process.
emergency roof tarping and home repair
muck and gut of affected properties
ERT Members provide public assistance by facilitating hazard tree removal, debris removal, safety briefings prior to field work, dispatch operations, and donated equipment and heavy machinery tracking. When a flood disaster is imminent, Members assist communities in flood fighting techniques by sandbagging and sump-pumping.
Prior to the Mississippi River flooding in Clarksville, Missouri, in 2013, AmeriCorps St. Louis, with the help from volunteers, constructed sandbag walls around the town, averting floodwaters from the residences of 442 individuals.
Members provide volunteer management by organizing and operating Volunteer Reception Centers and utilizing systems to track volunteers, including location and hours served, activity performed, and equipment used.
During the 2011 Joplin tornado, AmeriCorps St. Louis mobilized 63,620 volunteers and tracked over 633,465 hours of volunteer service.
ERT Members facilitate donations management by managing warehouses, being a Point of Distribution Tracking and Coordination site, and developing methods for tracking goods that are donated.
AmeriCorps St. Louis assisted in sorting and managing 2,000,000 pounds of donations throughout three warehouses in Sevier County, Tennessee, after the 2016 wildfires.
AmeriCorps St. Louis supports community outreach by canvassing in affected communities, supporting 2-1-1, running call centers for survivors, providing homeowner and property owner intake and tracking, facilitating case work and Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC) support, and providing staffing for logistics.
During the 2017 spring flooding in Missouri, AmeriCorps St. Louis traveled throughout the state to staff registration and homeowner intake tables at 18 MARCs over a period of 10 days.
Members assist in capacity building by acting as support and liaisons for emergency management agencies, including Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), Community Organizations Active in Disaster, and Long Term Recovery Committees. Other organizations include the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), United Way, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, faith-based organizations, as well as other state and local committees.
The preservation of our country’s natural resources and national parks is an important aspect of the ERT. Throughout their term of service, Members serve throughout Missouri, Illinois, and Montana, engaging in environmental stewardship and recreational projects.
Timber Stand Improvement | The process of actively thinning a forest is known as timber stand improvement. This requires felling, girdling, or treatment of certain trees and the removal of invasive or undesirable trees in order to improve a local ecosystem and the health of the remaining forest. Timber stand improvement also assists in restoring ecosystems that host endangered or unique species by promoting the growth of native alternatives. These projects can also be an alternative or precursor to prescribed burning.
Habitat Restoration | ERT members engage in many different types of habitat restoration, though the primary type is dolomite glade restoration. Glades in Missouri are dry, thin-soiled ecosystems similar to tall-grass prairies. These glades are home to many unique and rare species; however, fire suppression and lack of care have encouraged the abundant spread of native but harmful red cedars to Missouri glades. Members often spend time in these beautiful areas removing cedar trees to promote the open canopy needed for glade health.
Invasive Species Removal | The introduction of non-native invasive species to already-established ecosystems is detrimental to the local habitat. Invasive species out-compete wild plants and alter the ecosystems. These plants often spread aggressively and can have major impacts on an environment, affecting wild game, native species, and agriculture. We partner with nonprofits and governmental agencies to eradicate and reduce the spread of these damaging plants.
Special Projects | ERT is sometimes asked to undertake special conservation and resource management projects by our partners. In the past, these projects have included: tree planting in under-served local parks; beautifying urban green spaces through native planting and graffiti removal; gating Missouri caves to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome in at-risk bat populations; and collecting lichen in wilderness areas in order to monitor air quality.
Access for All | Responsible recreation means allowing access for all Americans, regardless of disability. Members rehabilitate walkways to ensure those with special functional needs can enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.
Bridge Building | ERT has been crucial in the creation and upkeep of many bridges, both in wilderness areas and in and around campsites. Bridges allow us to enjoy stunning natural scenery without disturbing the river habitat below. This is especially important if the river is part of the home of an endangered species, as was the case with this bridge pictured.
Campground Maintenance | Camping in already established campgrounds reduces our ecological footprint on otherwise sensitive sites. ERT engages in campground maintenance, like fence building, in order to ensure that these sites remain safe, functional, and attractive for future users.
Trail Building and Maintenance | Trails and green ways are an important aspect of any community or natural space. Trails encourage people to enjoy natural areas while reducing the impact on wild spaces. The Emergency Response Team has assisted in building and maintaining a variety of wilderness trails, including biking, horseback riding, hiking, ATV, snowmobile and ski trails. Trails we’ve serve on include the Ozark Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Great Rivers Greenway.
As populations grow and become more dense in rural areas of Missouri, fires that once threatened only natural areas are becoming increasingly dangerous to homes and businesses. The burden of protecting many homes and natural areas now rests on the shoulders of local volunteer fire departments, including the Emergency Response Team (ERT).
The ERT is a registered volunteer fire department with the state of Missouri. All Members are required to complete core wildland firefighting training through the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Upon completion of training, Members can assist national, state, and local conservation and fire agencies in all types of wildland firefighting techniques.
Every year in Missouri, wildfires threaten structures, habitats and communities. ERT Members assist the U.S. Forest Service, Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and other state and local fire departments in many different fire mitigation techniques.
Line prep and burn piles
Fire line preparation consists of blowing a marked line clear of brush and debris, chainsawing hazard trees and logs, and using tools to ensure that a controlled burn does not spread further than intended. By preparing safe fire lines, we ensure the protection of critical natural habitats and public infrastructure as well as the safety of those performing the prescribed burn. Burn piles are one way that we can safely control and monitor the disposal of excess vegetation we remove for fire line or habitat restoration.
From 2014 to 2017, the ERT prepared 358 miles of fire line.
A core component of the ERT's conservation efforts involves prescribed burning. If the weather permits, Members assist partnering agencies with prescribed burns to help restore natural habitats, eradicate invasive species, and manage the forest health.
From 2014 to 2017, the Emergency Response Team assisted Missouri state and local agencies in burning 28,781 acres of land.
During peak fire season, when government agencies and rural fire departments with limited resources are overburdened with fire response, ERT Members offer the needed labor and expertise to protect land and homes in Missouri. Members utilize fire rakes, pulaskis, McLeods, leaf blowers, and other hand tools to help mitigate the spread of a wildfire. Members also take part in scouting for wildfires by manning fire towers throughout rural Missouri.
From 2014 to 2017, the Emergency Response Team assisted state and local agencies in controlling and putting out wildfires over 1,656 acres of land.
When wildfires in other states become out of control and agencies need more assistance, the ERT is ready to deploy. We provide extra people power to incidents that require trained support. Past deployments have included fires in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Montana. While on deployment, Members utilize techniques learned from prescribed burning, like holding the fire line and backing the fire. Teams also use drip torches to create a black space around certain areas of the fire, which helps contain the spread of the fire by eliminating fuel.