Friends, every fall emergency services focuses on disaster preparedness and fire prevention. For years I have spent part of my ministry in the field of Disaster Preparedness and Recovery. I have served as the coordinator of a Long Term Recovery Group for northern Massachusetts. I have ministered as a fire department chaplain and on a Critical Incident Stress Management team. I have trained in a variety of disaster and trauma response programs. And I know that disasters are going to come with increased frequency and intensity.
There are 3 things I wish every clergy and lay leader knew about being ready for disasters:
- Disaster is a marathon, not a sprint. Educate yourselves on post disaster impact. The long term impact of a disaster on the emotional, physical, economic and social health of individuals and communities is profound. And we lack training to help ourselves and our communities learn to live into a ‘new normal’. Get educated!
- Have A Plan: Know how to communicate with your church members (when the cell towers go down). Keep copies of all important documents in multiple locations (including the digital ‘cloud’). Know your options when you can’t gather your community in your building AND when you need to. Be prepared to sustain yourselves locally for 2-5 days in the likely event that outside help can’t reach you right away. Plan for it. Rehearse your plan.
- Connect with your community’s response: Get to know your community emergency response personnel. (Often your local fire chief holds this role. If not they will know who does.) If you want to be helpful or even included in an emergency or disaster, having a relationship with those who will be actively engaged in immediate and long term recovery is crucial. And get to know the plan. Each community is required to have a disaster response plan for everything from major accidents, to active threats, to terrorism, to tornados (and the list goes on). You and your church may even be a part of that plan. Go introduce yourself.
Your Conference Disaster Resource and Response team offers workshops during the year. If you have a suggestion for a topic please let us know.
There is a lot more that it will be helpful to know to enable your church, its members and your community to be resilient in the face of disasters. I want to point out 2 of them:
- You can find an incredible wealth of resources at https://www.macucc.org/disasterresource
- There is a Disaster Preparedness Manual available for churches at https://www.ucc.org/disaster_preparedness_manual_for_churches_is_published
Blessings in your ministry.