In January, representatives from over thirty congregations gathered at Christ Church, Pensacola to learn about how the Episcopal Church can prepare for and respond to disasters. With hurricane season just around the corner, now is a great time to review some of those lessons learned.
Below are seven ways that congregational leaders can prepare for disasters. Try them out in your congregation, and let me know what you think.
1. Promote individual and family preparedness
A Season of Resilience is a series of worship sheet inserts that walks congregants through building an emergency kit. The inserts also have a list of free or low-cost activities that individuals can do to help better prepare for disasters. http://www.episcopalrelief.org/uploads/EducationFileModel/159/file/SoR-fullpage.pdf
2. Check-in with essential ministries
Groups like the Lay Eucharistic Ministers, food pantry volunteers, Alcoholics Anonymous, and new mothers groups have relationships with people who may be particularly vulnerable if a disaster strikes. Check-in with the leaders of these groups to see if they have a plan to check on members and to restore their ministries.
3. Fill out your church’s pin on The Episcopal Asset Map
The Episcopal Asset Map [hyperlink: http://edcgc.episcopalassetmap.org/] is a great way for to publicize and celebrate your ministries and worship services. It also provides invaluable information about your church’s ministries that may be scaled up in the event of a disaster. Click here for the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast Asset Map
4. Share disaster preparedness resources
Download and distribute free disaster preparedness resources. Here are some of my favorites:
Episcopal Relief & Development’s Resource Library http://www.episcopalrelief.org/press-and-resources/resource-library?q=&category=5&topic=&perpage=25&useFullQuery=&yt1=Apply+%E2%96%BA
The Department of Homeland Security materials https://www.ready.gov/publications
Church Insurance E-book: https://www.cpg.org/linkservid/BC581CC2-C071-1D9D-0F070AEC7D651E31/showMeta/0/?label=CIAC-ebook
5. Get to know your local first responders and emergency managers
Looking for programming ideas? Try inviting a local firefighter, police officer, or emergency manager to attend a coffee hour or potluck dinner. Often these professionals are eager to share disaster preparedness best practices. It’s also really helpful to have relationships with these community leaders prior to a disaster.
6. Fill out a disaster plan
One of the best ways to prepare for disasters is to work through or to revise a preparedness plan. Talk through a congregational disaster plan with you vestry. I recommend Episcopal Relief & Development’s Bronze Plan as a starting point if you do not have a current disaster plan. http://www.episcopalrelief.org/uploads/EducationFileModel/69/file/BronzeJuly2015.doc
If you have questions about disaster preparedness or response, please send me an email at email@example.com.