The Disaster Preparedness & Response Committee
Report to Convention 2021
The Disaster Preparedness Committee was formed in 2012 at the urging of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD)to offer guidance and support to the congregations and institutions of the Diocese of California as these developed disaster preparedness and response plans. In 2013, at our 164th convention, a resolution was passed calling for every congregation to develop a disaster preparedness plan. For the last eight years, your Disaster Preparedness Committee has been meeting regularly, working to encourage and support planning and resiliency through the diocese. We have worked with individual congregations, offered trainings and workshops, and coordinated diocesan responses to regional and national disasters. And we keep working to imagine ways of becoming even more prepared.
Before the onset of the pandemic with its ensuing seemingly never-ending months of challenge and adjustment, none of us could probably imagine a slow-rolling disaster with such impact on the whole world.
Each one of our congregations has raised the fundamental question that emerges with any sort of disaster: how can we be ‘church’ in this new situation, true to our mission, not only for our congregation but for those outside our walls? And we have answered that question in extraordinarily creative and successful ways.
Communication, when in-person was not possible, became the primary challenge. We have all learned so much more about how to use technology to support our programs and our worship, and while it doesn’t work for everyone, it works for many. We have also found low-tech ways to be in closer touch with seniors, shut-ins, and off-line poor, our shut-ins which will serve us well in an internet-impacted disaster.
Communication is always important and is always a challenge in disasters. This year the Disaster Team has implemented ALERT Media, with two contacts from every congregation that has opted in. This critical infrastructure will allow the diocese to maintain contact via text message, when most other communication networks fail during an emergency or disaster situation.
As you know, last year, in response to the Californian fires, many congregations responded most generously with care bags and gift cards. These were received gratefully. We have also learned from neighboring dioceses, response agencies, and those most impacted by the fires, that financial donations are the most effective. So, this year, thank you also to those who have promoted donations in your congregations, and have donated to the Red Cross and ERD through the diocesan and cathedral websites.
We are looking for new representatives from the deaneries of Contra Costa, Marin, and Alameda to join our team that meets monthly (on Zoom). Please reach out if you’re interested.
There will never be a day when we don’t have to plan for a possible disaster. The bad news is that these days, the disasters keep piling up. The good news is that the better prepared we are, the easier it is to roll with whatever happens – and we’re getting a lot of practice at rolling. Keep it up, DioCal!
With thanks to the members of the Diocesan Preparedness and Response Committee:
The Rev. Melanie Donohoe, Betsy Eddy, The Rev. AnnaMarie Hoos, Dave Olson, The Rev. Jane McDougle, the Rev. Anna Rossi, Elaine Vallecillo-Miller