Thursday, May 15, 2008

Interfaith Disaster Preparedness Groups

Does your community have one? It's a good idea. Local networks with common interests can accomplish a lot. For instance, here's what they're doing in San Francisco:

Leaders from more than a hundred San Francisco-based churches, synagogues and other places of worship are expected to gather today at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco to learn how to make their spiritual sanctuaries into places of physical refuge. Alameda and Santa Clara counties have made similar efforts.

In sessions organized by the San Francisco Interfaith Council, the church leaders will be taught how to create disaster plans for themselves, help congregants prepare their own households and be safety hubs for their neighborhoods in the midst of disaster.

"This is not to say we expect congregations ... to conduct a full-scale disaster response," said Alessa Adamo, program director for SFCARD, a nonprofit that trains faith groups and nonprofits on disaster preparedness. "What we're hoping for is that they're able to take care of their existing client base, help their immediate neighbors and provide a way for volunteers to help."

One of the main goals of today's gathering is to create neighborhood-based clusters of sanctuaries so different congregations can learn how to work as teams.
One thing not to repeat: The tendency to wait until after a disaster:
The San Francisco Interfaith Council was created after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake after leaders realized they needed to figure out collaborative ways to bring calm after a crisis. The Marin Interfaith Council was created in response to the devastating floods in 1982.
Business groups and non-profits can also work together, along with public officials. The more planning and preparation that's done ahead of time, the better.

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