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8 Ways to Get Ready for a Disaster

Overcoming inertia is one of the biggest challenge that churches face when it comes to disaster planning. When you look at disaster planning as a whole, it can be overwhelming. The key is to break it down into components.

Eight essential components for disaster preparedness

  1. Communication: Although it seems relatively simple, poor planning around communication can lead to delays for repairs and restoration. Communication works in different ways: internally, externally, and to vendors and others who supply services to people.For example, a church in Florida put out a clapboard sign displaying the hours they would be there to supply food and water to the community. That kind of communication is important, too.
  2. Take an asset inventory: Use one resource that already exists within the congregation: youth. Give them a Sunday night off from their regular activities, give them snacks, and have them record a visual inventory of assets on their smartphones.Having an inventory streamlines the adjustment process. Often, after a disaster occurs, the building is completed, but the content claim lingers because it’s difficult to piece together what contents were in there.
  3. Record-keeping and knowing what you have: One important consideration is: What hazardous materials are on the property and where are they? People who respond and clean up need to know to take precautions. Another component of record-keeping that can help responders is knowing what building equipment you have, such as air conditioners, boilers, and furnaces. Record the make, model, serial numbers, and value when purchased to expedite replacement and minimize downtime for operating facilities.
  4. Drills: Locations with schools should run evacuation drills and prepare for the possibility of sheltering in place. An active shooter situation, a chemical spill, or a civil disturbance in the area may make it unsafe for children to leave school for an extended period. Consider what it will take to house and feed children in those situations.
  5. Allocate tasks: To ensure that no two people are accidently working at cross purposes, church leaders should decide who is going to be responsible for what task after a major event. That includes considerations such as: Who will manage the contractor? Who will approve payments? Who will keep records?
  6. Pay attention to advance warning: Some disasters hit hard and fast, without warning, but hurricanes come with a warning window. Take advantage of whatever warning you have by boarding up windows, raising valuables off the ground, and nailing down loose furnishings.
  7. Keep up to date with inspections: Assign church leaders or volunteers to do your seasonal inspection checklists, so that damage and safety issues are rectified in a timely manner and don’t exacerbate the effects of a disaster.
  8. Pre-qualify a restoration contractor: The first 48 hours after a loss can make a difference in the total cost and duration of the claim. Make sure you have a restoration contractor that you trust at the ready in case of an emergency. It’s important to vet the contractor ahead of time.

For more information about disaster preparedness, use FEMA’s set of guidelines

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