Tornados, floods … and now earthquakes.

Disasters can strike Kentucky communities at any time, and it is important to have trained individuals in place to facilitate rescue and recovery efforts

With this in mind, each of Operation UNITE’s 44 Service Corps (AmeriCorps) members will receive disaster response certification training classes over the next few months.

The first training on “Damage Assessment” will be held from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, November 19, at the Pikeville Fire Department’s Regional Training Center. Additional training certification classes are planned on “Incident Management” and “Emergency Communications.”

“When (the Service Corps members) complete these classes, they can go to their county emergency managers and become part of the disaster teams so they can go to work in a disaster situation,” said Doug Tackett, emergency management and 911 director for Pike County. “They’re going to know what needs to be done and how to get started.”

Monday’s training class will be led by Chris Hecker, Region 8 response manager for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.

“AmeriCorps is a community-service organization,” noted Eugene Newsome, director of UNITE’s Service Corps program. “After the March tornado outbreak our members stepped in to help. It just made sense for us to take this next step so we could be ready with certified and trained individuals whenever we are needed.”

In March, Service Corps members provided more than 1,200 hours of volunteer service to the effected communities, Newsome said, noting one member helped with search and rescue, another manned a temporary shelter for victims, and many others coordinated drop-off centers and distribution of relief supplies.

“When a disaster hits they need people to be on the ground right away that have knowledge of what needs to be done first,” Newsome said. “Because of our widespread coverage – Service Corps members serve schools in 10 counties – we are positioned to step in and help right away.”

The tornado wasn’t the first time UNITE and its community coalitions have assisted with natural disasters, said Karen Kelly, director of UNITE. “We were on the ground and coordinating relief supplies within hours of the flash flooding that struck Pike County in July 2010.”

Kentucky Emergency Management regions have the responsibility to carry out the coordination of information and resources within the region and between the state and regional levels to ensure effective and efficient support to local response.

Each of the state’s 11 regions serve as the conduit for local and regional perspective and provide a physical presence for Kentucky Emergency Management functions at the local level in all phases of Emergency Management.

For more information about Kentucky’s Division of Emergency Management visit their website at