Preparing for Natural Disasters

While church shootings are statistically rare, other emergencies – fires, weather related damage or disaster, medical events– are more likely. Rev. Aaron Payson, one of the founders of the UU Trauma Response Ministry, estimates that less than 20 percent of UU congregations have a broad safety plan in place to address emergency preparedness or the possibility of an active shooter scenario. Many of those policies were written after experiencing a traumatic or emergency event, not before. And our congregations across the country have experienced all types of these events:

In all these examples, each congregation was in a different place in terms of preparedness. Our congregations are made up of people. “The Congregation” can’t respond in a time of emergency if the families, the people, aren’t taken care of. Often chaos can enter when the plan is being created in the moment.

There are three levels of preparedness that congregations should consider:

  • The congregation’s plans,
  • The individual members plans, and
  • Responding to the overall needs of the wider community.

Congregations can take some basic steps in assessing and preparing for emergencies to be better able to serve their people and communities during and after a disaster. While we cannot prepare for every possible “what if” scenario, we can prepare for the more likely, high impact risks specific to the region or area. Is your congregation more likely to have wind damage, flood damage, wildfire damage, train derailment, or other natural disasters? Plan for the ones most likely, and you will have the structure in place to adapt to other disasters, too.

With a clear picture of both the risks and resources available, you can see the gaps between what you have and what you need. Now you can start planning how to fill those gaps, either through acquiring needed resources or forming mutual alliances that allow you to work together for the common good.

Emergency Preparedness:

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