Several years ago, our church was struck by an arsonist. The office was destroyed, the sanctuary rendered unusable. At that point, multiple questions arise. Where will services be held? Are church records backed up? Was anything of value stored there? Is our parishioners contact information available? What can we do to improve the recovery process if this happens again?
Do you, your congregation and your church have emergency preparedness plans? Most churches, and probably most individuals, are not adequately prepared for a major emergency. These events can come in many forms: fires, floods, earthquakes, active shooters, bomb threats. It’s impossible to plan for everything, but having a general plan in place can help ease the church through a crisis and avoid catastrophe.
There are resources available through Pacific Southwest District. The PSD has a Director of Disaster Response, Rev. Rick Stark, and is a participant in the Inter-Lutheran Emergency Response Team. I-LERT is a network based within the Lutheran community of Southern California. Currently serving
Southern California, I-LERT serves as a central hub from which information and training on disaster preparedness is circulated, and through which resources can be directed to individuals, families, and churches in an emergency. Its members include representatives from PSD, Pacifica and Southwest California Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and Lutheran Social Services.
The mission of I-LERT is to equip Lutheran congregations and entities to prepare for and respond in the event of a disaster by cooperating and coordinating with other disaster entities; communicating about the availability of resources, training, and support; and communicating with Lutheran congregations and entities in the event of a disaster so that resources and actions are not duplicated. I-LERT does not provide a direct response to an event.
LCMS Disaster Relief is a source of funds and volunteers to help with the aftermath of emergencies. As part of this effort, the Lutheran Early Response Team (LERT) is a group of individuals trained to assist in cleanup efforts. This training is available through the district.
All counties in California have a VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) group which is consists of varied volunteer organizations which offer disaster assistance in various forms. Examples of organizations which participate are Red Cross, Salvation Army, radio groups, church organizations, Team Rubicon, I-LERT and governmental emergency coordinators. The purpose of VOADs is to disseminate information on available services and coordinate response to prevent duplication.
We are currently in need of volunteers to serve on the I-LERT committee or attend VOAD meetings in their county (especially Los Angeles and Ventura). A broad base will ensure our access to a variety of programs and services, and connectivity with Lutherans throughout our service area.
For further information contact:
Rev. Rick Stark
Director of Disaster Response
Ron Herman, RN
Health Ministry Representative