provided by Week of Compassion
Summer brings the threat of tropical storms, in addition to the continued possibility of floods, tornadoes, and fires. Last week, the NOAA released their forecast for an active, likely above-average, Atlantic hurricane season. Taking action to be prepared for natural disasters is more important than ever given the complications posed by COVID-19. In addition to basic preparations the CDC offers a few additional suggestions, including:
- Evaluate your disaster plan in light of social distancing, especially if your plan involves individuals at increased risk from COVID-19.
- Check local guidance for information about evacuation orders and public shelter options. Evacuation instructions may be different than for past storms due to social distancing needs.
- Include items like hand sanitizer, masks, and soap in your emergency supply kit or go bag.
- Be aware of your emotional and mental health, as the stress of a potential storm compounds the stress of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, it’s also important that church leaders consider congregational disaster plans. General preparedness information, including the full Congregational Guide and “10 Steps to Become a More Prepared Congregation,” is available on the Week of Compassion website. Like families and individuals, congregations should also make some specific considerations for the COVID-19 context. Here are a few things to think about in regards to member care and disaster response:
- Where are your members likely to evacuate? What members might need assistance evacuating, especially considering changes to public transportation or limited contact with friends and family members?
- What members have heightened emotional or mental health needs?
- What will need assistance gathering additional supplies to shelter-in-place for a storm?
- How will you incorporate social distancing and safety measures in your response plan?
- If your plan includes use of your building or communal spaces, how will you ensure social distancing? Can activities be relocated to an outdoor setting?
- If your plan includes distribution of food or donated materials, how will you protect volunteers and recipients? Do you have the necessary supplies to do so?
- If your plan involves volunteers, will you require temperature checks, health screenings, masks, or other protective equipment?
- How will you communicate changes to your plan to local emergency and health officials, to members, and to neighbors you would serve?
In taking these steps to plan ahead, congregations can prepare to weather the storm, and be ready to serve their neighbors– even in the midst of the additional challenges of this season.