5 Tips to Prepare for a Natural Disaster
The best time to prepare for a natural disaster is before one happens. Resilience and perseverance are essential to overcoming any unforeseen situation, but preparation is vital for any organization to be able to respond and continue to make an impact.
Natural occurrences such as a fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, or tornado present unique challenges for any organization, but churches are often less equipped and may be expected to play a role in community support.
In the LifeWay post, “Bracing for Impact: How to Prepare Your Church for a Natural Disaster”, the author Dr. Jamie Aten shares that 59% of the pastor’s surveyed, prior to Hurricane Katrina didn’t have a formal disaster preparedness plan in place, and 24% had only the “bare necessities” in place to protect property, church member communication, and survival readiness.
Among Dr. Aten’s findings, 55% cited preparedness challenges as an issue. The challenges included difficulty collecting information from members, feeling rushed and disorganized trying to help their church or others prepare.
Having a starting point is important, especially when taking into consideration the different kinds of support the community will need. While it’s different in every situation, five strategies to consider when preparing your organization and to support your community are:
1. Make a plan
There are many details of an emergency response plan, but these mission-critical actions can be taken immediately.
- Talk with leadership in your organization about how to best support your community.
- Identify if the budget can support purchasing supplies like food, water, temporary shelters, etc.
- Determine how your organization will approach evacuation orders – will leadership stay or go, will some return after a certain amount of time?
- Make sure to collect and update contact information for leadership and attendees.
- Reach out to local resources such as police, fire, and emergency management officials to identify shelters that can take families and their pets.
2. Encourage others to make a plan
Don’t only count on the leadership team. If they are unable to support themselves due to resource loss or injury, they won’t be able to assist anyone else. Every person and family should have a plan and work to stock up on needed essentials. If this isn’t possible consider opening food pantries and stocking up on things like batteries, water, non-perishable items, toiletries, and first aid items.
3. Ramp up communication
This is a big task!
- Assign at least 2-3 people to manage communication internally with members and externally to local resources.
- Provide preparedness and survival information, evacuation routes and options for people that choose to stay.
- Utilize the tools available within your check-in system to communicate with member families.
- For example, KidCheck includes Broadcast Email and Text Messaging features which enable you to send an email or a text message to a group of parents, volunteers or both. This is helpful for last minute updates, change notifications or emergency announcements. It’s easy, fast, and convenient when the time is of the essence.
- Also, a children’s check-in/out system can be very helpful if your facility becomes an emergency shelter.
- A check-in system provides enhanced security and is vital to child safety. Regardless of whether you’re using an electronic solution or another method, certain tracking and safety measures are still a necessity.
4. Utilize available resources
It’s always a good idea to know your local resources such as police, fire, and emergency management officials. Contact each one in your area and let them know your plans to provide community support. If first responders know ahead of time what you have to offer, it will help with resource allocation for those who have been misplaced.
5. Protect your facility
If there’s time to prepare your facility to minimize property damage, here are a few tips from Dr. Aten’s post: board up windows, reinforce doors, secure heavy electronics such as televisions and computers, anchor bookshelves and large cabinets, strap water heaters to walls, secure items that could become projectiles and unplug all cords from outlets.
These steps don’t cover every detail of what an emergency response plan should look like, but are designed to provide a good start. For additional emergency response information go to Ready.gov
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