Disaster Preparedness - How the Church can prepare for the worst.

There has been a lot of attention, this past year especially, on the seemingly inevitable Cascadia Quake that is predicted to shake the Pacific Northwest with great force. While we do not know the time this event or other potential disasters might take place, it does seem prudent and wise to be prepared. The Church is in a unique position to assist during disaster given the strategic locations of our places of worship throughout our cities and communities, and the built-in networks of volunteers.

I sat down with Patti Quirk of the City of Seattle to ask how the Church can be prepared and offer assistance to our communities when emergencies do strike. Ms. Quirk was eager to share opportunities for volunteers, providing several ways to engage.

One simple way for churches to assist during an event is to provide space for first responders on the scene- to allow them a space to set up camp where to plan and provide shelter for them as well. Ms. Quirk mentioned that one of the most effective and unsung heroes of the first responders is the Salvation Army- who is recognized on a federal level as a part of the National Response Framework. The Salvation Army is continually looking for partnerships with churches and organizations that can assist them in rescue and recovery work.

Another key role can congregations can play is a point of distribution- which provides food, water, clothing and disaster kits during distress. Churches can also distribute and relay information within their network of attendees and volunteers- providing hope and a message of resilience that life will go on. Many times volunteers from distant states want to help, like during Katrina and Sandy cleanup efforts. Denominations can communicate, on a national level, real needs before volunteers show up.

Practical ways that congregations can begin preparedness are assessments of facilities: Are your structures safe and ready for an earthquake? What facilities could you offer for either shelter or distribution. What role do you want to play in an emergency? The Department of Neighborhoods are continually surveying what assets they can utilize during times of distress- showers and large spaces are vital in rescue and recovery. Ms. Quirk emphasized, "The time to prepare is ahead of time; because when something terrible happens if you know what your role is you are ready to roll to help the communities back on their feet."

The Church is to be a comfort and to serve in the Spirit of Jesus to our neighbors. Partnering with the Salvation Army and different Government outlets could have a great impact on effective relief for our cities and communities during trying times. If you would like to assess your facilities, the Office of Emergency Management is more than willing to assist churches and also consider reaching out to the Department of Neighborhood Hubs- to let them know who you are and your willingness to help.

We don’t know when disaster in the form of earthquakes, fires, or even shootings may take place, but we can be prepared to assist our communities when they do strike. Regardless, we can take great comfort in Jesus’ words, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

For more information on disaster preparedness, visit your city’s website, contact the Salvation Army or click here for Seattle residents.

Nathan A. Ryan

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