Two Simple Ways to Be Prepared for the Next Disaster

Sep 21, 2021

Major Dalberg has spent much of his career anticipating the worst. As director, along with his wife Major Debra Dalberg, of The Salvation Army Metropolitan Division Emergency Disaster Services (EDS), he is no stranger to fires, floods, tornadoes, blizzards, and pandemics. He often encounters first responders on one of the most challenging days of their career, and individuals on one of the worst days of their life.

To be ready to serve these people in crisis, Major Dalberg’s EDS team keeps their 60,000-square-foot headquarters in Elk Grove Village stocked with thousands of bottles of water, blankets, flood kits, cans of food, items of clothing, and other supplies. And they keep their urban kitchen and 11 mobile feeding units in good working order, ready to roll up to the next disaster scene and offer the simple but significant assistance of a bottle of water and reassuring smile.

We caught up with Major Dalberg this National Preparedness Month to draw on his expertise. In a time when hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, and COVID spikes are occurring faster and more frequently, how can the average person be as prepared as possible?

The Power of Practice

“The biggest thing is having a family plan – developed, talked about, and practiced consistently,” said Major Dalberg, adding that the practice component is often overlooked. Have a location outside the house that family members know to go to automatically in the event of a disaster, he suggests. This can prevent a crisis from compounding. For example, he said one of the greatest losses in house fires is when a parent goes back in to get a child. If everyone knows to get out and meet at the park down the street, confusion and catastrophe can be minimized.

When it comes to weather-related disasters, Major Dalberg suggests one essential tool: a battery-powered radio. “More lives have been saved by weather predictions and alerts than you might realize,” he said. As these predictions and alerts have gotten more advanced over the years, that protection has increased exponentially. But that’s only if you’re able to receive those warnings – even, and especially, when the power goes out.

Strength in Support

The secret to keeping the EDS operation as prepared as possible? You. Financial support from donors as well as donations of food and supplies from companies throughout the area keep the EDS shelves stocked, and the team equipped to provide just what is needed exactly when it is needed. “If we have consistent financial support, it makes our job easier year-round,” Major Dalberg said.

He also relies on a “focused, trained group of volunteers.” With less than 10 people on the EDS staff at any given time, they rely heavily on those who have gone through their training and regularly show up to pack food boxes, serve coffee to first responders, or distribute flood kits – often on a moment’s notice.

Major Dalberg is regularly impressed by their dedicated team of volunteers. During the initial months of COVID, when safety concerns were especially high and their many older volunteers were understandably reluctant to serve, the EDS still had 384 volunteers participate throughout their pandemic response. A major part of that response was delivering a week’s worth of meals to quarantining individuals with no other means of securing food, an operation they now know helped save lives. Reflecting on that vital work, Major Dalberg said, “There can’t be anything better than that.”  

Learn more about our Emergency Disaster Services – including how you can volunteer or financially support these efforts.


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