Faith-based emergency preparedness in Austin, Texas

Hi y’all from Austin, Texas.

Today was a pretty quiet day from a training perspective.  We started our new class for CERT Program Managers.

Following the curriculum, we spent the day on topics Program Managers should address as they build or improve their CERT programs, including:

  • Developing a program vision
  • Program promotion
  • Working with Volunteers and Instructors, and
  • Keeping your program going (sustaining)

Faith-based emergency preparedness

Before I share with you a unique perspective from our class this week, let’s look back to an event that I have been involved with and that took place last week in St. Louis.  The Heartland Centers for Public Health and Preparedness at Saint Louis University has been collaborating in the St. Louis, MO region with key stakeholders that have faith-based interests in helping faith-based organizations first become prepared themselves, and secondly to address how they might become a vital disaster response resource within the larger St. Louis regional community.  On April 27, 2012, The Missouri Governor’s Faith Based Conference was held in St. Louis.  Over 200 churches participated in this very successful conference.

The goal of the conference was to provide insightful and inspiring practical advice about the unique demands those churches and other religious communities must be prepared for, following a large-scale disaster. The program addressed the continuing needs that communities face long after disasters, and the best ways to be prepared in advance of a possible disaster. Religious and volunteer leaders from Joplin who continue to lead the community’s recovery efforts spoke about their real-world experiences.

Other items addressed during the conference included:

  • Responding to the emotional and spiritual challenges of disasters
  • The role of religious leaders in response and recovery efforts
  • The support to faith communities available from the Missouri National Guard Chaplain Corps
  • How to organize and maximize volunteers for disaster response and recovery
  • Preparing for the management of mass donations
  • Preparing a religious facility for sheltering
  • Organizing long-term recovery efforts

Austin Disaster Relief Network

So with my explanation of what we’ve been doing in St. Louis with respect to faith-based preparedness, you can understand why I was happy to learn about an organization here in Austin called “Austin Disaster Relief Network” .

One of our students who’s been with us this entire week is “David”.  David, like many of us, has enjoyed a busy and interesting career road path.  At this point in his life he has discovered another calling, working with the Austin Disaster Relief Network

The Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN) is a non-profit Christian organization made-up of church, ministry, business leaders, and volunteers. The organizations vision is to serve Christ by establishing a church network in the greater Austin, TX area that will meet the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of those affected by a disaster.

I was very happy to hear about this organization as I have been a believer (in more ways than one) that in another large-scale disaster, our faith-based organizations will serve as lighthouses in the community, where people will go to for physical, emotional, and spiritual help.  As we work to ensure our communities are well-prepared for disasters that may occur, we must leverage opportunities where faith-based organizations come to the table with both private sector and public sector representatives.

ADRN identifies several goals they are working towards, including:

  • Build a communication infrastructure among local churches, ministries and businesses that will enable and empower them to sponsor and provide for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of families affected by disaster.
  • Organize resources needed in times of disaster.
  • Collaborate with the City of Austin, Surrounding Counties, VOAD and all other disaster relief organizations.
  • To provide Emergency Shelter training to equip and prepare volunteers within each participating organization in our network.
  • To be prepared before the next disaster strikes.

To accomplish their goals, ADRN has divided the greater Austin area into 12 sectors.  Within these 12 sectors churches are ADRN is helping to mobilize and prepare churches within each sector to respond quickly in times of a disaster.  Within each sector there is a designated Regional Coordinator who works closely with churches, ministries, businesses and other “resources” within the sector.

Each church in the ADRN network is asked to recruit a Disaster Relief Coordinator to act as a liaison between their church, volunteers, and ADRN.

ADRN’s Regional Coordinator will directly work with every Disaster Relief Coordinator within their sector to help collect data, initiate volunteer drives, organize vital resources, potentially provide additional shelter space, and coordinate training to equip, prepare, and credential their volunteers.

If you are in the Austin area, ADRN is hosting two full days of disaster training at their upcoming “Lifestyle of Readiness Training Conference” that takes place June 15 – 16, 2012.  You can get more information on their website at www.adrntx.org.  I wish them great success.

So, tomorrow we complete training and head home.  I’ve really enjoyed the week here in Austin, and hope you’ll check back on Saturday May 5 for my final post from this trip.

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