Disaster Preparedness Resources for Churches
June 8, 2020
The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and its Commission on Disaster Preparedness and Response recommend all churches and diocesan institutions implement one of three Preparedness Planning Guides provided by Episcopal Relief & Development as a first step towards disaster preparedness. At a minimum, Episcopal Relief & Development suggests three basic steps to help ensure safety in times of disaster: make a plan, be informed, and prepare a kit.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), American Red Cross, and other organizations commonly define a disaster as any event which overwhelms existing local capacity and requires outside assistance for recovery. A disaster may also cause great damage, destruction, and human suffering, and examples of disasters include earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires, pandemics, mass migration, and traumatic community events. Disasters can occur at any time of year, overlap with one another, and may come with little or no warning.
Keeping this information in mind, it is increasingly important for all diocesan institutions to have a preparedness plan in place before a disaster occurs, whether it is a hurricane, flood, fire, tornado, active shooter event, or other catastrophic occurrence. A disaster can be an overwhelming experience, but there are actions individuals and churches can take ahead of time to help ease the response and recovery process. All disaster recovery efforts will benefit from a foundational level of preparedness.
Sample plans and other resources can be found in the Diocesan Preparedness Guide and linked below.
After completing an initial disaster preparedness plan, the Commission recommends institutions make a physical copy of the plan available in an easy to access and well-marked location. The Commission also recommends storing a digital copy online so that it can be accessed off-site if clergy or lay leaders are prevented from entering the facilities due to the disaster. Educate staff and lay leaders about the plan and its location.
Additionally, congregations are encouraged to update your church profile page on the Episcopal Asset Map (click here for step-by-step instructions). Updated church information found here will be invaluable as we combine gifts and resources following a disaster. And an announcement regarding the AlertMedia service presented at Council 2020 will be coming soon.
Jennifer Wickham, Bishop’s Deputy for Disaster Recovery, reflects, “If there’s one thing we learned from Hurricane Harvey, it’s that we are incredibly vulnerable. It’s easy to tell ourselves, ‘it could never happen to us,’ but there are a lot of people in our diocese who would say that it is a mistake to pretend we are immune. We need to prepare for the things we can in order to have energy for the things we cannot. Having even the most basic disaster plan in place ahead of time is critically important for our churches and schools.”
Diocesan churches and institutions with questions about choosing a planning guide or disaster preparedness may contact Jennifer Wickham, Bishop's Deputy for Disaster Recovery, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Episcopal Relief and Development Preparedness Planning Guides
- Comprehensive Plan & Facilitator's Guide: The Comprehensive Plan, used with the Facilitator's Guide, will help a congregation plan for a disaster and includes guidance for many aspects of preparedness, from taking inventory of physical and human assets to determining its niche in assisting vulnerable people in the larger community. The Comprehensive Plan will take between ten to fifteen hours to complete. The accompanying Facilitator’s Guide will help lead a team through the sections of the Comprehensive Plan and prepare the team to use its plan in an emergency. The Facilitator’s Guide can be adapted for use with the other plans, as well.
- Silver Level Plan: The Silver Level Plan requires less time to complete, while still collecting the basic information necessary to protect parishioners and church property in times of disaster. It also helps congregations begin considering how to meet the potential needs of their most vulnerable neighbors.
- Bronze Level Plan: The Bronze Level Plan will help congregations gather the most basic information needed in times of disaster, recognizing that some congregations and institutions may not be in a position to complete the Comprehensive Plan or Silver Level Plan at this time. Creating even the most basic disaster plan before a disaster hits is critically important for our churches and schools.