SRC reminds churches: be prepared



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

SRC reminds churches: be prepared

July 15, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011   
tparham@flumc.org     Orlando {0332} 

An e-Review News Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — Now that the hurricane season is in full swing, church members must be prepared to both respond to their communities and protect their churches if a storm hits their area. Key to that preparation is the church's district disaster response plan.

That's the message Marilyn Swanson, project director of the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center (SRC), wants to convey to conference churches. She said it's most important for them to connect with their districts to ensure they are receiving current and accurate information about how to respond.

"The local church can prepared by being part of the conference plan," Swanson said. "District disaster coordinators are available to train and equip local churches for disaster relief and response."

Efforts can be duplicated when local churches work on their own in terms of longer-term relief and response, according to Swanson.

"Churches with teams that want to help can call the response center (SRC) to volunteer their time, and we can send volunteer teams into areas that need them because the district disaster coordinators will be telling us where help is needed," she said.

Swanson also emphasized that churches must be prepared to help themselves and their communities within the first 72 after a storm hits because other relief groups may not be able to enter the area if roads are closed and power lines are down. Churches should be actively identifying vulnerable populations in their area — the elderly, people with physical disabilities, single parents with children — so they will know in advance who and where they are, Swanson said.

Last year the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) asked SRC for assistance with special needs cases. SRC received 500 calls from the agency. Those cases were then farmed out to local churches that routed volunteers to help the storm survivors, many of whom were elderly. The nine district disaster response coordinators, now in the process of recruiting county disaster coordinators, will be key to helping churches fill that need in the event of a hurricane.

Churches should also prepare their buildings and structures now. A "Pre-Storm Preparation for Building and Structure" checklist that covers such topics as facility shut down, business interruption, physical protection, life safety, action, contingency plan, maintaining communication, securing yard storage, electronic data processing, fire protection systems, inventory of property and valuable papers is posted on the Florida Conference Web site at http://flumc2.org/page.asp?PKValue=684.
 
Swanson said she feels confident the conference is more prepared this year for hurricanes than it was last year when a series of storms ripped through the state back-to-back.

"I think we are better prepared because we have lived through three hurricanes that have been very close to home," she said. "That helped prepare us; we gained knowledge and experience. That's how you learn — by living through it."

A manual distributed at the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event offers tips and resources to help churches prepare. A copy may be obtained by calling Florida Conference Risk Management at 800-282-8011, extension 144.

For more information on storm preparation e-mail SRC at StormRecovery@flumc.org.

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This article relates to Storm Preparation and Response.

*Parham managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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