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'Season for Preparedness' is Now

As an onslaught of repeat flooding continues in Houston, dozens more communities across the U.S. begin recovering from spring tornadoes, and the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season begins, it seems there is no "off-season" for disasters. And that means there's no "off season" for preparedness either, said Greg Forrester.

"I was driving down an interstate in central New York, and I saw four different grass fires, awfully close to residential areas," said Forrester, executive in charge of U.S. Disaster Response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). "I thought: what would you do?"

Disasters can strike anytime, anywhere. While that may sound like a "gloom-and-doom" forecast, being personally prepared can help people maintain a sense of control and, ultimately, a sense of hope.

Check out UMCOR's "Connecting Neighbors: A Ready Congregations Program of The United Methodist Church." It provides the tools and information volunteers need to guide the development of local church disaster-response ministries. "The first module in our new format is personal preparation," said Forrester.

Tropical Storm Bonnie formed and flooded parts of the Carolinas before hurricane season even began, pointed out Catherine Earl, U.S. Disaster Response executive. "It's not a matter of 'if,' it's a matter of 'when,' " she said.

Replacing "should haves" with: "Because we prepared"

Part of being prepared is being aware, she added, "and the way we increase awareness is through learning opportunities and networking."

United Methodist "Disaster Academies" or "Mission Academies" are a vital source of information and collegial ideas about preparedness. Jurisdictional training ensures that individuals — and their churches — are prepared to help people in need. "Disaster Academies are a great resource for both seasoned responders and for average people interested in learning a little more," she said.

Earl said that, after every disaster, people lament, "We should have been prepared."

She wonders how much faster people could recover if they replaced all of those "should haves" with the phrase "because we prepared."

  • Because we prepared our church property, we experienced little or no damage.
  • Because we prepared our church members, we were able to take care of ourselves and the vulnerable among us.
  • Because we prepared to respond, we were able to address the needs of our immediate community.
  • Because we prepared by engaging the whole community, we were more capable of responding together.

Part of preparing is taking the initiative to enroll in training to learn how respond. For church members and friends, training can open the door to serving on an Early Response Team, CARE team, long-term disaster recovery committee, volunteer home repair team, or mission team.

"UMCOR provides opportunities and resources to the people of the United Methodist Church and others who are willing and able to invest time and talent into being better prepared," said Earl.

Susan Kim, journalist and a regular contributor to

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