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Loving neighbors includes helping in natural disasters


One way we can “love our neighbors as ourselves” during an emergency is to take some forethought, receive appropriate training, and make plans for how best to take care of our families, our congregations, and our sisters and brothers within the wider community.

The Inland Northwest Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (INWVOAD) recently met in Spokane and learned from Robin Cocking, deputy director of Whitman County Emergency Management, about how faith based organizations and houses of worship can be effective in disasters.

She has a presentation she would like to give to faith organizations on how they can assist their congregations and communities.

What might a church, synagogue or mosque do if someone walks in off the street during a disaster asking for help?  That’s why it would be helpful to have a disaster plan in place.

Most places of worship don’t think about their potential to need such a plan.

Whitman County, where Robin serves, has the potential for wind damage, flooding and fire.  Humans might cause damage.  Recent history shows that someone might enter a place of worship and open fire with a gun. Industrial settings can develop leaks.  The county can experience ice storms or biological disasters.  Cyber-terror or nuclear accidents or attacks could cause massive power outages.

What is true in Whitman County is true anywhere. Robin advises faith based organizations to contact the emergency management entities in their area and request training for a leadership team.  The team would then create a plan for their congregation.

Plans involve setting up a protocol for checking on the neediest members of their congregations—the home-bound, those receiving Meals on Wheels or people requiring special medical needs.  The plan might include checking on neighbors of the church or of the members.

They then would be able to call in information about needs to the emergency management team.

Perhaps the worship building is accessible to the disabled and has open space for housing those who cannot go home. 

Perhaps someone has particular aptitude for working with abandoned pets.

Perhaps there are people within a congregation with skills needed during long-term recovery efforts, such as after wildfires or the recent flooding across Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Robin stressed the importance of receiving disaster training.  Emergency Management does not accept the assistance of people coming in off the street and offering to help.  It prefers to work with those who are already trained to prevent chaos.

Robin’s point is valid.  We are all part of one human family so we need to be prepared to care for each other in emergencies and natural disasters.

Kaye Hult – contributing editor

Copyright © June 2017 - The Fig Tree