When disaster strikes: Five steps to ensure your church is prepared to minister to the community

2015 was a record year for disasters in Texas. Flooding and tornadoes damaged thousands of homes. Currently, there are 24 active Long Term Recovery groups meeting regularly to rebuild homes and lives of people affected by these disasters in Texas.

When communities are struck by disasters, a well-run leadership structure within that local government keeps citizens from being caught off guard and scrambling to react. The same is true of our churches and associations. Those who educate themselves on what to do when a disaster strikes are able to smoothly flow into the relief and recovery phases of a disaster, working with local authorities and Texas Baptist partners.

Below are five steps you and your church can take to be a strong presence within your community during times of disaster:

Before disaster strikes

1. Form a Disaster Response Team

Churches and/or associations should form a Disaster Response Team. This team will need to be aware of local and state players involved in recovering from a disaster, including Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery and Texas Baptist Men. Volunteers who currently serve with these organizations would be a great resource for these teams.

2. Schedule a meeting with your county's Office of Emergency Management

Team members should meet with their County Emergency Management staff to learn their procedure for disaster response. This informs the local government of your church's desire to be a serious partner in responding to a disaster. This is especially important when a community is involved in a disaster that received a FEMA Declaration. The Disaster Response Team can also join the local County VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters).

3. Train to host a donations center

Hosting a donations center in churches creates a safe place for disaster survivors to receive needed items. The church becomes an important ministry point within the community. This provides a credible outlet for people to provide needed donated items. Those who volunteer to organize and run this center are better equipped when training is done before disasters strike. Information on this training is available through Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery.

After disaster strikes

4. Organize a Volunteer Reception Center

Disaster Response Teams can be trained to organize and run a Volunteer Reception Center (VRC). This training is available through Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery.

5. Join the Long-Term Recovery Team

Most people don't realize that it takes three to five years to fully recover from a large disaster. Members of the Disaster Response Team can join the Long Term Recovery Team team made up of local community volunteers to help rebuild homes and be involved the long-term recovery efforts.

People who have been affected by disasters are hurting. Responding to these hurting families is a great way for Christ followers to the presence of Christ to these who have lost so much. For more information, contact Marla Bearden, Disaster Recovery specialist for Texas Baptists, at 214-537-7358.

Helpful Resources

Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery mobilizes volunteers to provide free labor in times of disasters to help uninsured or underinsured homeowners rebuild in the long-term recovery phase of the disaster. This is done by partnering with other faith-based organizations on a Long Term Recovery Team. For more information go to texasbaptists.org/disaster for volunteer opportunities.

Texas Baptists Men works to mobilize trained volunteers during the relief period of a disaster. TBM mobilizes volunteers with current background checks and yellow cap training. Many of these volunteer are retired individuals and can be ready to give a week or two to a "call out" on a moment's notice. For more information go to texasbaptistsmen.org.