ECSLA is building leadership teams to strengthen parish-based disaster response capacity in the Diocese of Louisiana. Parish-based preparedness and planning allows us to prepare for and respond to anticipated disruptions and potential hazards following a disaster. Through pre-event planning, parishes can work together to help reduce injuries, loss of lives, and property damage. Parish-based preparedness can enhance the ability of individuals and neighborhoods to reduce their emergency needs and to manage their existing resources until assistance becomes available.
Studies of behavior following disasters have shown that groups working together in the disaster period perform more effectively if there has been prior planning for disaster response. These studies show that organized grassroots efforts may be more successful if they are woven into the social and political fabric of the community and places of worship.
Step 1: Build a Team
Forming a Disaster Leadership team for your parish is one of the best ways to ensure that your church and congregation are properly prepared and to see that all those carefully laid plans are realized during the typically chaotic time after a disaster strikes. Trusting these roles and responsibilities to willing parishioners who have offered up their time and talents to this essential ministry also frees up the rector to devote more time and energy to where he or she is needed most in the wake of a cataclysmic event—in the spiritual and pastoral care of a vulnerable congregation.
What sort of roles will the team fulfill?
- Authoring and executing church planning and preparedness
- Helping to educate the congregation about the church’s role in preparation and response
- Participating in ministries that foster church and community resilience
Step Two: Make a Plan
Disaster planning isn’t just about hurricanes! Do you know what your church would do in case of a fire, flood, or other local emergency? Having a plan ensures that your staff and assets are protected. Planning for disaster may include:
- Staff evacuation and other safety precautions
- Keeping an up to date inventory of the church’s assets
- The church’s role in response and serving the greater community
- Resuming Sunday morning services as soon as possible
- Establishing a working communications network
- Care of archives and records and many other considerations, at the discretion of the rector and the Disaster Leadership Team.
Planning can sometimes seem overwhelming! A diocesan representative is available to facilitate our church’s planning and to assist with its implementation. Plan templates are available through Episcopal Relief and Development. The plans are very thorough and highly customizable to suit your individual church’s needs.
Step Three: Developing Resilience: The Foundation of Preparedness and Response
Resilience is a measure of how well a community is able to recover from a disastrous incident. More than planning, preparedness, and response, it’s an intrinsic quality of healthy communities that sustains them during the grueling days after an event and fuels their recovery, often allowing them to come back stronger and more tightly knit than ever before.
In keeping with our mission to Build the Beloved Community, it is ECSLA’s earnest hope that we may expand the preparedness of the churches in our diocese to include service to the community at large, and thereby to increase our resiliency and ability to respond. We are excited for the many occasions for outreach that this initiative will afford us through the development of ministries among our own churches.