The Value of Preparation

Mark Lambert
July 01, 2022

A good argument can be made that choosing to live in Louisiana categorizes us somewhere on the scale between flirting with and inviting the inevitable natural disaster.

In a recent hurricane preparedness webinar, Louisiana Conference Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey punctuated that point with an anecdote about her 2012 arrival in Louisiana, where she heard people describe the episcopal residence as having “a Gustav roof.” She assumed that “Gustav” was the name of the company that installed the roof.

Later, she realized the roof’s name referred to the 2008 hurricane that destroyed the previous roof.

“We mark time in Louisiana based on hurricanes,” Bishop Harvey said. “I know not to be away at the end of August,” the peak of hurricane season.

Each year, we know a flood, tornado, or hurricane may come; we usually hope and pray it’s not this year, or it’s not too bad, or it’s not in our community. But, as we have learned in other circumstances, hopes and prayers aren’t always enough. Action is required, and when it comes to hurricane season, preparing for a disaster is a tangible, valuable action that can make the recovery process easier.

Bill Howell, Director of Missional Engagement and Outreach for the Louisiana Conference, has been working the back end of hurricane recovery since he arrived from Florida last fall.

He and Rev. Bob Deich, the conference’s disaster response coordinator, now are temporarily shifting from response and recovery modes to preparation mode in anticipation of the next big storm, which we all know will come.

Part of that preparation involves encouraging people to sign up for Emergency Response Team (ERT) training to help others in the aftermath of a disaster, after the professional first responders have completed their work. Deich said. ERT members go into disaster zones to do work such as mucking out homes, removing storm debris, and tarping roofs, all while providing a caring, Christian presence.

The Next ERT Training

Deich emphasized that anyone can be on an ERT team because the training is done by trainers who have been certified through the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Current ERT members include teachers, farmers, welders, accountants, and pastors. 

“We’re not extraordinary people,” Deich said. “The most important thing we do is to show up.”

The Louisiana Conference also is working directly with churches in south Louisiana to serve as points of contact and resources in the event they are near an area that was impacted by a storm but not directly hit.

Those churches, Howell said, may be able to house volunteers, store supplies, and serve as a drop-off and pick-up point for water, clothes, or other necessities.

Howell emphasized that everyone living in Louisiana should take personal responsibility for disaster preparation, beginning with having a personal disaster plan. The plan should include an evacuation destination, a communications plan with family and friends, and an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, batteries or charging devices, food, and a first-aid kit.

Howell added that homeowners should secure and make copies of their insurance policies and go through each room of their homes, taking pictures and making lists of personal property.

“I wish that, someday, we wouldn’t have to be so focused on hurricane preparedness as we have been,” Bishop Harvey said. “But we know that history does repeat itself.”

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