If only we had planned.
When disaster strikes, everyone is trying to figure out where to go, what to do, and who to call. Local churches are in a unique position to be a positive force in responding. Many congregations already address the special needs of their communities. People will naturally turn to the church in times of crisis, seeking assistance, meaning and healing.
There are four entities in or surrounding a church location. They are the staff, the church membership, the community where the community is made up of non-church members and church members of other churches, and other churches/communities that need assistance. It is the responsibility of the church to address all four groups. For your location, it takes time to consider various potential disaster risks, make preparations to avoid and minimize the impact of a specific disaster and for the staff and individual and family church members to respond to the needs of fellow church members, those in the community and other communities..
Following a disaster, many people and organization, including the faith-based community, immediately respond. They provide many services including support of first responders (fire, police, EMT, Search & Rescue), provide assessment and early response teams, hot meals, distribution of non-perishable food and water, and are active in the rebuilding, and many other ways.
Theses coordinated and collaborative actions of community organizations are not done alone but are coordinated with the local county/city government (Emergency Management) who is in charge of the disaster and in doing so lead to the best possible recovery of disaster survivors.
Disasters do not wait for training and preparation, so identification of potential disaster risks for your church and staff, membership, and community, anticipating what might happen, determine what can or cannot be done, and meeting the needs. This also involves training and preparation for individuals and family, special needs individuals, church schools, and businesses in addition to church preparation.
Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as making an emergency supply kit and developing a family communications plan, are the same for both a natural or man-made emergency.
However, there are important differences among potential emergencies that will impact the decisions you make and the actions you take. Use the menu to learn more about the potential emergencies that could happen where you live and the appropriate way to respond to them.
Statement of purpose (How does this plan fit in with the mission of the church and local community resources?)
Types of Risks that are likely to occur in your community
Assignment of responsibility (This will include covering a variety of tasks such as working with volunteers to gathering of the important papers and insurance.
Action Plans (What services will be provided and what will they entail? Storage, Use of Building, Volunteers, etc.
How do we manage the people who want to help? (Prior training, on-the-job training, spontaneous volunteers (SUV's, etc.)
A means of communicating with congregation and the surrounding community.
One the plan is completed, the disaster plan is presented to the entire church. Congregation willing to "buy in" to the plan are more willing to participate in the implementation.
While local plans can not lessen the physical impact of an incident, a well thought out and followed plan can help mitigate the emotional and spiritual impact.
A plan can speed up the immediate response and help lessen the feelings of loneliness and isolation so commonly felt after disasters.
A good disaster ministry plan also utilizes those volunteers with that overwhelming need to help others in times of crisis.