Updated: Oct 22
Disaster planning can be overwhelming. For example - more than half the churches affected by Hurricane Katrina did not have a disaster plan in place prior to the disaster. Successful disaster preparedness is like a puzzle— best solved working one component at a time. Check out the ten proven steps your ministry can take to begin preparations before it's too late.
1. Communicate Effectively Poor planning around communication can lead to many difficulties during and after a disaster. Most churches already have the bare bones for creating a solid communication plan. Take stock of email and phone lists, keep your contact information up-to-date, and plan how you will use your social media presence to broadcast needs to help the community.
2. Be Vigilant Some locations are more at risk for hurricanes, while others are more at risk for tornadoes. Identify which disastrous events are most likely to occur in your area, then create disaster plans for each potential event. Planning for different disasters (i.e., hurricane, flood, tsunami) is always wise, as they may require different plans of action. 3. Practice Drills 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 people to leave for extended periods of time. Consider what it will take to house and feed people sheltering-in-place and prepare your emergency kit accordingly. You should also consider what it will mean for all church members – including the elderly, those with small children, and those with disabilities – to exit the church and the area safely. 4. Take Inventory Having an inventory streamlines the claims 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 the building that was damaged or destroyed. Luckily, smartphones make it much easier to take inventory! Instead of writing down all the contents of each of your buildings, record them on video and take snapshots of serial numbers when appropriate. 5. Make Improvements If funds permit, consider having an expert conduct an inspection and provide improvement recommendations improvements to your facilities to potentially decrease damage from natural disasters and severe weather. This could include installing an automatic generator or sump pumps, or even be as simple as making sure that gutters are securely anchored. 6. Heed Warnings Some disasters hit hard and fast without warning, while others (like hurricanes) come with warning windows. Take advantage of whatever warning you have by boarding up windows, raising valuables off the ground, and nailing down loose furnishings. You can also clear your property of any dead or dry plant matter and trim trees so that dead or dying branches do not become projectiles. This type of outdoor clean-up makes your church safer during any kind of strong storm. 7. Delegate Tasks To maximize efficiency, church leaders should decide who is going to be responsible for what task after major events. This includes considerations such as: Who will manage the contractor? Who will reach out to the church roster to determine if anyone needs help? Who will keep records? This type of preparation has the added benefit of creating a team of church leaders and members who you know will be available and ready to help should a disaster occur. 8. Make Cross-Denominational Overtures Reach out to other churches in your area to see how you can help each other before, during, and after disasters occur. For example, you could make an agreement with another church that each could use the other’s facilities to hold services in case either of your buildings needs to be shut down for repairs or restoration. You can also plan for how you can respond to victims’ needs in the community in the aftermath of a disaster. 9. Prepare to Pivot You may have resources allocated toward ministries that will better serve the church in other ways after disaster strikes. Think about the different ways in which you can be flexible with your ministries to serve your community after it has been hit by a disaster. 10. Pre-qualify Contractors: The first 48 hours after a loss can have a huge impact on 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. Emergency preparedness can feel like a daunting task, but taking a few simple steps today can alleviate major headaches down the road. UMI is here to help.
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This content has been prepared by United Methodist Insurance Company (UMI) for informational purposes only. No article or document may accurately contemplate all possible scenarios or church resources. As such, this information is meant to foster discussion by the individual church and its members to develop a plan tailored to its own circumstances. UMI is providing this information with no warranties or guarantees of any kind and it should not be viewed as legal, financial, or other professional advice. All liability is expressly disclaimed. Any claim examples described herein are general in nature, may or may not be based on actual claims, and are for informational purposes only. Any coverage available for a claim is determined from the facts and circumstances of the claim as well as the terms and conditions of any applicable policy, including any exclusions or deductibles. In the event of a conflict with the content herein, the terms and conditions of any issued policy will control. Individual coverage may vary and may not be available in all states. The commercial insurance coverages for United Methodist Insurance are sold and serviced directly or indirectly by Sovereign Insurance Agency (CA Lic. No. 0B01380) ("Sovereign") and underwritten by various available insurance markets. Sovereign pays United Methodist Insurance a royalty for the use of its intellectual property.