Churches Strive for Disaster Preparedness and Service to Others

Churches Strive for Disaster Preparedness and Service to Others

By Paula Schaap, Communications Director 

The Northern California region is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the U.S. But those same landscapes can turn deadly when nature takes a less kindly turn.

That’s what happened in January when record rain brought much-needed relief from drought – and also flooding that forced some from their homes, made transportation difficult or impossible and caused widespread power outages.

For those who plan for disaster preparedness, that points up the need for church members to keep up-to-date on their resilience and disaster recovery plans, according to Margaret Dunning, who coordinates the diocese’s response to disasters.

The same way others have their phones set to their favorite tune’s ringtone, Dunning has hers set to the National Weather Service alerts.

Keeping in mind that forest fires, earthquakes and floods will always be a fact of life in the region, the diocese in 2014 passed a resolution calling on all congregations to prepare a disaster plan. Those plans are a way for each congregation to track vital information in the case of a disaster, including insurance policies, critical contact information and parishioners who may need extra assistance.

The disaster plans are available from Episcopal Relief & Development, which has developed templates that range from a simple list to elaborate recovery plans, depending on the size of the congregation and its needs. (Click here for available templates.)

So far, about one-third of the diocese’s parishes have filed their disaster preparedness plans with the Office of the Bishop or the diocesan coordinator.

Another aspect of these plans is the emphasis on recovery – not only for a church and its congregation, but also for its community. To that end, ERD has developed the asset map, where congregations can list not only information about their outreach programs, but also the kind of assets in the community that would be available should a disaster occur.

Before the 2014 resolution was passed, Northern California deacons took surveys to each congregation and populated the diocese’s asset map. Updating the map is simply a question of entering information in an easily accessible web program, Dunning noted. It’s also another way for people to find the church in their area and to learn more about the congregation and its service to the community.

The importance of the diocese’s disaster preparedness and community resilience program, Dunning said, is “to help people to have things ready when the unexpected arises.”

To get help with your church’s disaster preparedness plan or for assistance with your church’s listing on the asset map contact Margaret Dunning at or Paula Schaap at

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