Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Finding True North #22: Disaster Preparedness

Yesterday in staff meeting, we spent a good bit of time looking at a draft of a disaster preparedness plan that a team from North has been working on for some time. The goal of such a plan is to equip the church ahead of time to deal with crises both within the walls of the church and in the surrounding community, whether that means a health emergency during a worship service, a tornado ripping through the city, someone bringing a gun to church or some sort of widespread pandemic.

I learned that few churches apparently have such a system in place, and interestingly enough, this plan was adapted in part from one adopted by McMannen UMC in Durham, a church I am fond of because they have supported the Wright Room Summer Program (not sure if that video's public, it's on Facebook) at Asbury Temple UMC, where I worked its first two years of existence. The connectional system gets personal again.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty interesting that North has put so much time and energy into this sort of preparation. Some of it involves ensuring that church documents and valuables are recovered in the case of something like a fire, but if there is attention on intra-church disaster, there is more on how the church might respond to one in the wider community. They are working on getting officially registered with the Red Cross to serve as a shelter in times of emergency; their facility in and of itself could be a valuable resource in a crisis, not to mention the church as a place for worship and prayer. Here's an excerpt that I found moving because it evokes the importance of the church as a spiritual center and respondent in crisis:

If the church should fall victim to the disaster and not be safe for occupancy or remain only as a pile of holy rubble, find a tree, a tent or awning to gather under. Set up a homemade altar and make a cross to adorn it. The pastor and the victims will need this Holy Ground to turn to.

Basically: whatever it takes. It'll be interesting to see how the plan evolves and is implemented. Thank God for churches like North working to be everything Christ would be even in unthinkable circumstances.

Do your churches have anything like this? What do you think about a disaster preparedness plan, and what should the church's role be in a time of crisis?

1 comments:

KNS said...

Here, this topic is a very big deal. We have a disaster (really, hurricane) preparedness committee, a really detailed plan, etc. Having gone through Ivan and Katrina in the past 10 years, it is serious business.

A few things that might be interesting:

- We have a Chores Team (guys with tools) who volunteer to help parishioners who might need it with boarding their windows, securing outdoor furniture, etc. Obviously, with hurricanes, you know that they are coming in advance, and can do this.

- We keep a list of parishioners' plans in case of a major (Category 4/5) storm, and will check in with all those who stay after the storm is over.

- We also match up people who live alone (mostly ladies of a certain age) and who don't want to be by themselves with other families, so they have another place to stay while the wind is high and it's a bit scary outside.

- In our meeting, someone brought up the topic of tornadoes, and it was agreed that in that case, the vast majority of the plan would be useless. But tornadoes are pretty rare here, while hurricanes are a fact of life. My childhood was marked not by snow days, but by hurricane days, which are less fun in some ways but thrilling in others.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Finding True North #22: Disaster Preparedness

Yesterday in staff meeting, we spent a good bit of time looking at a draft of a disaster preparedness plan that a team from North has been working on for some time. The goal of such a plan is to equip the church ahead of time to deal with crises both within the walls of the church and in the surrounding community, whether that means a health emergency during a worship service, a tornado ripping through the city, someone bringing a gun to church or some sort of widespread pandemic.

I learned that few churches apparently have such a system in place, and interestingly enough, this plan was adapted in part from one adopted by McMannen UMC in Durham, a church I am fond of because they have supported the Wright Room Summer Program (not sure if that video's public, it's on Facebook) at Asbury Temple UMC, where I worked its first two years of existence. The connectional system gets personal again.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty interesting that North has put so much time and energy into this sort of preparation. Some of it involves ensuring that church documents and valuables are recovered in the case of something like a fire, but if there is attention on intra-church disaster, there is more on how the church might respond to one in the wider community. They are working on getting officially registered with the Red Cross to serve as a shelter in times of emergency; their facility in and of itself could be a valuable resource in a crisis, not to mention the church as a place for worship and prayer. Here's an excerpt that I found moving because it evokes the importance of the church as a spiritual center and respondent in crisis:

If the church should fall victim to the disaster and not be safe for occupancy or remain only as a pile of holy rubble, find a tree, a tent or awning to gather under. Set up a homemade altar and make a cross to adorn it. The pastor and the victims will need this Holy Ground to turn to.

Basically: whatever it takes. It'll be interesting to see how the plan evolves and is implemented. Thank God for churches like North working to be everything Christ would be even in unthinkable circumstances.

Do your churches have anything like this? What do you think about a disaster preparedness plan, and what should the church's role be in a time of crisis?

1 comments:

KNS said...

Here, this topic is a very big deal. We have a disaster (really, hurricane) preparedness committee, a really detailed plan, etc. Having gone through Ivan and Katrina in the past 10 years, it is serious business.

A few things that might be interesting:

- We have a Chores Team (guys with tools) who volunteer to help parishioners who might need it with boarding their windows, securing outdoor furniture, etc. Obviously, with hurricanes, you know that they are coming in advance, and can do this.

- We keep a list of parishioners' plans in case of a major (Category 4/5) storm, and will check in with all those who stay after the storm is over.

- We also match up people who live alone (mostly ladies of a certain age) and who don't want to be by themselves with other families, so they have another place to stay while the wind is high and it's a bit scary outside.

- In our meeting, someone brought up the topic of tornadoes, and it was agreed that in that case, the vast majority of the plan would be useless. But tornadoes are pretty rare here, while hurricanes are a fact of life. My childhood was marked not by snow days, but by hurricane days, which are less fun in some ways but thrilling in others.

 

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