November 7, 2017

Preparing for Disasters

With the frequency of hurricanes that have recently occurred it begs the question how prepared are our churches for any catastrophe. Whether its fire, flooding or a mass shooting we do need to have a Disaster Preparedness Plan to address the physical and emotional needs of our congregation.

The Church Pension Group in its monthly newsletter points us to the Facilitator’s Guide on the Episcopal Relief and Development website. There we find a number of resources to help introduce this disaster preparedness discipline as part of our normal church life. Their best practices suggests that churches have a focused meeting to assess and provide remedies for any type of disaster including identification of the primary person within the congregation that has the responsibility for preparedness. There are also resources at the diocesan, provincial and national levels to assist with this activity.

Areas for consideration in preparing for disasters include:

  1. An updated, accurate list of members of the congregation with their contact information and an efficient way to get in touch with them. When was the last time the church directory was updated and who has the responsibility within our churches for that information. Also technology should be explored that allow recorded messages or text messages to be sent automatically to the entire congregation at a reasonable cost.
  2. Important church documents should be identified, categorized and kept in a safety-deposit box or a fire/water proof safe. How often do we cut the minor expense of a safety deposit box from the budget in the name of saving costs with potentially negative effects in the future. Again someone needs to be given the responsibility for ensuring that not just the old but also newer documents are properly stored including electronic documents.
  3. A video and paper inventory of the church inside and outside including items of value should be produced. This of course necessary for insurance policies and claims and also helps us to be good stewards of our church building. Once completed we again need to determine where this inventory will be stored and who ongoing has the responsibility to keep up to date.

It is important to add this critical topic to the agenda at our next Vestry meeting.