New guide for emergency preparations

The Department of Homeland Security has developed a new resource for preparing for and responding to emergency situations in church buildings. The Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship was released in June.

It includes information on developing response plans for natural disasters, and it also has a section on responding to “active shooter” situations. DHS also has a webinar, Conducting Security Assessments: A Guide for Schools and Houses of Worship.

See also the InterConnections article from April 2013, Planning for Emergencies and the Unthinkable.

How churches can prepare for natural disasters

When a hurricane is almost on top of you, there are still a few things that religious professionals and lay leaders can do to make a difference for their congregations:

• Copy off a list of members’ phone numbers so you can reach them later. Ideally that list will include cell phone numbers. And ideally you’ve asked people previously where they might evacuate to in case of an emergency. That makes it easier to find them.

• Designate a member or a team to call or otherwise try to find people when the immediate crisis has passed. This could mean dividing up the congregational membership list beforehand.

• Send your own emergency contact information to members.

• Designate someone who lives near the congregation’s building to come check on it so that you will know as soon as possible how much damage has occurred. If streets are impassable, others may not be able to get there. Make sure the designated person can get into the building.

• Download and/or backup critical congregational files and copy important documents. Place them in a safe and secure location away from your building.

• Lay in emergency supplies, including water, food, batteries, and flashlights not only at home, but at the congregation’s building. Let members know what support will be available there when the storm passes.

• If your building site is in danger of flooding, move items of value to higher floors, if possible.

• Invest in a couple of blue roofing tarps so you can cover any damaged roofs, if necessary, before repair crews can get there.

And when the storm has passed, carefully read the UU Congregational Emergency Preparedness Manual. It includes information on advance planning for emergencies and what to do in the aftermath of one.

More flood relief needed

Congregations in Tennessee and Kentucky, which suffered severe damage from flooding in early May, need more help say the Rev. Dr. Lisa Presley, district executive of the Heartland District, and Annette Marquis, district executive of the Thomas Jefferson District.

In Kentucky, flooding put five feet of water into the UU Church of Bowling Green’s new congregational hall and religious education building. Damage was estimated to be $100,000 and was not covered by insurance. More than 70 UU families, primarily in the Bowling Green and Nashville areas, experienced everything from minor damage to total loss of their homes, with an estimated cost of $575,000.

A member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville has created three short video interviews with flood victims. They can be viewed on YouTube. A video of the Bowling Green damage is here.

Presley says the UUA TN/KY Flood Relief Fund, and a separate fund in the Heartland District, have received about $44,500 in contributions since the funds were set up in May. About $26,000 has been distributed.

She says, “If you have not yet asked your congregation members to make a donation to the fund, please do. This particular fund will help ensure that these congregations and their members will still be standing strong in their communities. An article about the flooding appeared on on May 10.

Donations can be made online here, or mailed to the UUA, 25 Beacon St., Boston MA 02108. Attn: Stewardship & Development Gift Processing. Please note “Nashville Flood Relief” somewhere on the check.