Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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September 2014 Archive for Disaster relief

RSS By: Pastor Craig Miller

Disaster relief coordinator Pastor Craig Miller shares disaster relief information in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.


Sep 30, 2014

It seems like Hurricane Sandy is ancient history to many of us. So much has happened since October 29, 2012 that we hardly think about the unprecedented storm surge and the water flowing through streets and subway tunnels. But to many survivors, especially those who still struggle to rebuild homes and lives, the storm and its devastation is still fresh, the wounds raw. The nearly two years of waiting and pleading for recovery assistance have not brought healing yet. And many still suffer in silence, whether out of fear or ignorance of the resources available.


New Yorkers know from our experience of 9/11/2001 that disasters impact us not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. Anniversaries often bring back feelings related to the trauma, sometimes unconsciously. Sounds, tastes, sights and smells can also recall events. Survivors of Sandy continue to experience strong emotions and ask spiritual questions. The recent floods in Long Island brought new devastation to some communities and raised memories of the experience of 18 months before. In addition, feelings of frustration, despair, and abandonment grow among those whose recovery is delayed or stalled.


For the most part, our churches damaged in the storm have come back. They have repaired walls and replaced furniture and appliances, thanks to the generosity of neighbors and many Lutherans from around the country, including those who gave to our synod disaster relief fund. In Gerritsen Beach, Coney Island, Howard Beach, Long Beach and the Lower East Side our congregations have reopened damaged basements, social halls, and sanctuaries. In some cases the repairs have improved on what was there before the storm.


What is our church doing now, as we approach the second anniversary of Sandy?

Through Lutheran Disaster Response of New York (LDRNY) we continue to offer Disaster Case Management to survivors of Sandy and Irene in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. Disaster Case Management (DCM) assists survivors to develop and implement a recovery plan appropriate to their needs and helps to identify resources available to achieve the goals of the plan. LDRNY is one of several organizations under the government funded DCM program administered by Catholic Charities. To date they have aided 1,444 clients through their DCM services plus another 500 referrals.


A few of our congregations have hosted volunteers or other Sandy workers in their churches. This act of generosity has brought assistance to many survivors who otherwise could not have moved forward in their recovery.


We give thanks for those who give to Lutheran Disaster Response. These gifts help survivors of disasters around the world and here in New York. LDR grants enabled Lutheran Counseling Center to offer no cost counseling to survivors in Long Island, Brooklyn, and Staten Island; Lutheran Health Care provided assistance to its employees whose homes were impacted; and LDRNY will extend its top-notch DCM beyond the period of funding from the government.


Thank you for your prayers, your gifts and your presence.   

Plans: More than documents

Sep 18, 2014

America’s PreparAthon! will take place on Tuesday, September 30. The PrepareAthon is a nationwide, community-based campaign to increase emergency preparedness and resilience. Individuals, organizations, and communities can participate through drills, group discussions and exercises to prepare for local hazards.


I wonder how many of our congregations are prepared to respond to disasters that might affect their communities. The synod disaster plan under development will call on all of our congregations to develop their own disaster plans that will include what to do in the event a disaster strikes their properties, as well as what they can do to respond to local disasters.


Such plans are more than documents that we keep in our church offices. We must practice our plans regularly so that we can better enact them when disaster strikes. Drills and table-top exercises help us to find the weaknesses in our plans and strengthen them, and they keep us mindful of our roles so that in an emergency we will know what to do without losing time looking it up.


When we have our synod and congregation disaster plans and practice them, we can better encourage our members to develop their own plans. In fact, part of a congregation’s plan might be to offer regular training to members (and the community) so that they can make their own plans and practice them together. These events can have the added benefit of bringing neighbors together in a way that enables them to help each other in a disaster situation. If I know my neighbor’s plan as well as my own, we can work together to find safety. And if my neighbor has a need that I discover in a preparedness exercise, I can be ready to help when disaster strikes.


Make a plan

Sep 15, 2014

Week Three of National Preparedness Month focuses on what we need to have in order to be prepared in the event of a disaster. There are several things needed in a disaster plan. The synod’s draft disaster plan specifies how our congregations and synod staff might respond to disasters but, more importantly, it begins to specify measures to be taken in order to be prepared for our response. Indeed, we cannot respond well in a disaster unless we have prepared ourselves ahead of time. Knowing that our own house is in order will help us to reach out to others after a disaster rather than leave us scrambling with our own recovery.


readyBefore any flight takes off, the passengers are given a safety demonstration that includes what to do in the event of emergencies. The flight attendants demonstrate the use of seatbelts, life vests, and how to put on an oxygen mask if the cabin loses pressure. Passengers are instructed, "If you are traveling with young children, put on your own mask first before helping your child." This seemingly selfish act, we know, is so that we do not lose consciousness while trying to help another. Being prepared means that we have taken measures before a disaster for our own safety and security, and the well-being of our families and our congregations so that we can more quickly come to the aid of others.


The synod disaster plan will call on all congregations to have their own plans. Lutheran Disaster Response has a new resource for congregations to use, along with the many resources available from FEMA, Red Cross and other organizations. Local Long-Term Recovery Groups, COADs, and VOADs also have resources and connections through their participating organizations, as do Offices of Emergency Management.


Several organizations offer disaster planning workshops for individuals. Participants in these workshops usually receive a go-kit from the organization. Families learn how to develop a communication plan that includes a location to meet in case they cannot return home. Congregations can organize preparedness seminars and workshops for members and their neighbors with assistance from Red Cross.


Be disaster-aware: Take action to prepare

Sep 06, 2014

Congregations proclaim the gospel in many ways in the community in which they live: worship, vision planning, social ministry, youth programs and much more. When a crisis or disaster arises and God’s people are hurting and scared, God gives us the gift to share the hope and promise of new life in the midst of devastation.

--Lutheran Disaster Response Congregational Disaster Preparedness Guide

disasterawareWe are in the second week of Disaster Preparedness Month looking toward National PrepareAthon! Day, September 30. The www.ready.gov site suggest this is the week to Make a Plan. This is a good week for congregations to look at the newly released Lutheran Disaster Response Congregational Disaster Preparedness Guide. The guidebook provides a helpful process for developing a congregational response plan that includes assessments of capabilities for responding to disasters and vulnerabilities of the congregation.

Our synod Disaster Response Plan--currently under development--includes the expectation that congregations will have their own response plans so that our church can truly be a source of hope and promise after disasters. In order to live into our strategic vision of a synod claimed, gathered, and sent, we need to be prepared to address the needs that arise after disaster strikes. Whether small or large, from a house fire to another superstorm, our church can better proclaim God’s mercy when we have made preparations ahead of time to respond.

Other resources for preparedness include the FEMA Guide to Developing High Quality Emergency Operation Plans for Houses of Worship, Church World Service, the American Red Cross, local Offices of Emergency Management and Police and Fire Departments.


Get Prepared: National Preparedness Month

Sep 04, 2014

getpreparedThe month of September has been designated National Preparedness Month. During these 30 days individuals, communities and organizations are encouraged to think about how they will respond in the event disaster strikes.


As we think about preparedness we probably first consider those large disasters such as superstorm Sandy or 9/11, but disasters come in all sizes. A house fire is a disaster to the family that loses its possessions and place of shelter; a building collapse in Harlem is a disaster to those who live there and to neighbors; rain-swollen creeks and sewers overwhelmed by a sudden downpour can devastate entire neighborhoods and towns. The effects of these events are mitigated by good planning on the part of those who are affected.


The NYC Office of Emergency Management website has an entire section dedicated to preparedness. The site advertises events around the city throughout the month with kickoff events in the five boroughs taking place on September 5. FEMA has been tweeting on preparedness with the hashtag #NatlPrep.


National Preparedness Month aims to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies. The ready.gov website has resources ‘free’ to use in congregations and communities as well as materials for America’s PrepareAthon!, an annual event scheduled for September 30.


In future posts this month I will share more ideas and resources about disaster preparedness along with information about our developing synod disaster plan.


National Preparedness Month

Week 1 (September 1-7): Be Informed. Plan How to Reconnect and Reunite with Family Following a Disaster. Emphasis is placed on family emergency communication planning for how you will get to a safe place; how you will contact one another; how you will get back together if separated; and what you will do in different situations. The plan can be completed and/or exercised on National PrepareAthon! Day.



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