Responding to a major disaster is compelling and exciting—but preparing for a disaster is not as compelling and certainly not exciting.
Yet preparation can significantly reduce the impact of a disaster and facilitate both immediate and long-term recovery. Still, it’s a tough sell to get individuals, families, and local churches to prepare for a disaster.
Here are ten reasons why your church or community should start that process today:
1. Disasters are more prevalent today.
There has been a 400% global increase in natural disasters since 1985 and 5,000 terrorist events annually over the past 10 years (Aten).
2. Disasters have increased in size and extent of devastation.
In fact, some of the worst disasters have occurred in the past decade: the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami (2004), Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (2008), and the Haiti earthquake (2010), to name a few.
3. Disasters have become more complex.
We now have different types, classifications, and phases of disasters. For example, large primary disasters like earthquakes often give rise to secondary disasters like prolonged power outages. Or, disasters can be classified according to the extent of the destruction they cause, or whether they are due to natural or man-made causes (Aten & Boan, 2013).
4. Pandemics can spread rapidly and overwhelm the underprepared.
An influenza pandemic, or other infectious diseases, can spread from person-to-person causing serious illness across the country, or around the globe, in a very short time (Ibid.).
5. Disasters impact the whole person and the whole community.
Each requires an immediate, intermediate, and long-term response. With their long-term presence, local knowledge, and ethos of compassion and care for others, churches are uniquely positioned to serve their communities in the midst of a disaster and the response (Ibid.).
6. Disasters reveal who are the most vulnerable in a community.
Identifying the most vulnerable in advance can reduce the impact upon them. Examples of at-risk members include the elderly, people with serious or chronic medical conditions, handicapped people, and children (Ibid.).
7. Disasters impact the entire community but disproportionately strike the poor and vulnerable.
8. The local church can play a significant role in giving hope, providing for physical needs, and providing spiritual and emotional care.
In fact, people in a community hit by disaster often turn to local churches for support. With their local knowledge, churches will be quick to understand the felt needs of their communities.
9. The local church’s level of preparedness will impact its level of resilience and capacity to respond to a disaster.
We highly recommend the book Disaster Ministry Handbook. Filled with resources for emergency planning and crisis management, this book provides best practices for local churches.
10. You can be used to train and equip other individuals, families, and communities.
One excellent resource is the Web site of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute of Wheaton College. HDI has a wealth of information, tools, and planning guides to help local churches prepare for and respond to disasters. Invest a few minutes today looking over their site and the resources available to you.