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10 ways churches plan for disasters

UMC insurer publishes disaster guide for local churches

BY HEATHER HAHN (UMNS) | June 23, 2018

Plenty of churches have seen earthquakes and lightning, rivers overflowing and hurricanes a-blowing.

Before there’s a bad moon on the rise, United Methodist Insurance has ways to help.

The nonprofit has produced a free e-booklet, “Emergency Preparedness for Natural Disasters and Extreme Weather,” in hopes of helping churches long before trouble’s on the way. People can download the handbook here.

The overarching message of the booklet is that while you likely can’t prevent natural catastrophes, you can be prepared.

“Helping United Methodist churches be better equipped for natural disasters that occur is our goal at UMI,” said Sid Gray, the insurance company’s vice president and treasurer. “Having a plan in place before something happens will help the church recover much quicker than if there is no plan.”

The booklet lists 10 ways churches can prepare for disaster, including improving communication and taking an inventory of a church’s assets.

United Methodist Insurance offers tips for assembling an emergency kit, reporting insurance claims and avoiding scams in a disaster’s aftermath. Its booklet also has advice for winterizing churches and dealing with specific disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and fire.

In addition, the booklet alerts churches to resources they may not know are available. For example, churches may be eligible for disaster-recovery grants from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency through its Public Assistance Program.

The goal is to help churches get back to serving their communities.

“Pre-plan and know your church roster’s demographics,” the booklet says. “If the disaster comes with advance warning, check in with at-risk church members before the event to learn of their plans. But, look beyond the boundaries of your church community as well.”

Gray said United Methodist Insurance realized the need for this resource after last year’s devastating hurricanes across the Caribbean and the U.S. mainland.

Last year alone, he said, more than 100 churches insured through the company saw their ministries disrupted in some way by natural catastrophe.

United Methodist Insurance is a subsidiary of the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination’s finance agency. The nonprofit insures more than 3,600 United Methodist churches and other properties.

Gray stressed that the book is intended to benefit the entire denomination, not just the company’s individual clients.

In developing the book, the insurance company consulted the United Methodist Committee on Relief, FEMA and the website ready.gov, which is maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Hopefully this e-book will be a conversation-starter at both the conference and local church levels,” Gray said. “While no document can be all encompassing, the articles list actionable items for churches to consider before, during and after a weather event.”

About the writer: Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.


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