Take it from Noah (and NOAA): Be prepared for a flood!
Sunshine and milder temperatures lulled us into believing that spring weather would arrive with the season. We'd just begun to catch our breath from the relentless winter when skies turned grey and the dirty snowbanks were once again clothed in glorious record-setting white. While it's possible that this 'winter of discontent' may soon be behind us, it's certain that effects will linger on.
March 16-20 is Flood Safety Awareness Week in Massachusetts. Below, you'll find thought-starters for church leadership as well as helpful information you may want to share with your congregation.
In addition, the MACUCC Disaster Resource Team encourages you to take a look back in order to look forward. What lessons did you learn from the season of storms?
* In light of canceled services, parking issues, and pastoral care to the elderly, what would you do it differently next time? (Because there will be a next time!)
* With regard to your church, your congregants, and your local community; what worked and what could you improve upon? If you have a protocol that works well, would you be willing to share it with other churches? If so, please email Karen Methot so that we may create a compilation of best practices.
* The barrage of consecutive storms gave us a bit of insight into the fatigue and disorientation that accompanies a disaster even once the critical event has concluded. As a faith community, are you acting on your own or do you have partnerships with emergency management agencies, other local faith communities, and/or fraternal organizations? Do you have partners, either locally or elsewhere in the Commonwealth with whom you can share reciprocal aid? Do you have a protocol in place for new council members, trustees, deacons, moderators, ministers to access easily? As a pastor or church leader, do you have a practice that restores your soul? Balance is essential as you walk with others as a caregiver.
* If your space is rendered unusable or roadways become impassable, what's your Plan B? How do you disseminate information about services or activities--internally and externally?
* What about if you lose power? Spring storms knock out power lines and take down tree branches.
* How is the landscaping at your church and parsonage? Is it time to take down old branches or dying trees?
* If it's advisable to shut off utilities at the church or parsonage, whose responsibility is that? Are the shutoffs clearly marked? Do you have a wrench on hand?
* If your community encounters a flood or other natural disaster, can your church help in a crisis situation? Do you have a generator, fridge, stove, showers, parking, storage, skilled tradespeople, tools, trucks, and/or people that you can mobilize to help?
The section below may be copied for newsletters, e-newsletters, and bulletins.
In observation of Flood Safety Awareness Week in Massachusetts, the MACUCC Disaster Resource Team offers congregations some practical tips as we head into flood season.
* Flood waters are dangerous! Just six inches of rushing water can knock an adult down and 18-24 inches of water can float cars, trucks and SUVs. Don't walk across flooded roads or drive through flooded areas.
* If you come upon a flooded area, rather than proceeding forward, retreat. The water may appear to be passable, but you don't know how deep it is, nor do you know about the integrity of the roadway. Potholes are tough, but roads can completely crumble under flood waters. You have no way of knowing what's down there. Be especially alert at night when conditions limit visibility. Follow evacuation routes and do not drive around barriers.
* Flash flooding can topple trees, destroy bridges and contain rocks, branches and other debris.
* Know the lingo: “flood watch” means that flooding is likely; a“flood warning” means that it is either already flooding or it will be flooding soon.
* Have an emergency plan. Consider a communication plan with a designated contact person and meeting place and prepare an emergency kit (“go bag”) with 3 days of food, water, medicine, flashlights, battery operated radio and first aid kit. Plan for your pets. Some shelters don't take pets, but make sure you've got a pet plan and pet food and supplies with you. Charge your electronics and bring your chargers. Bring cash with you, in small bills. Fill your car gas tank. Those pumps are electrical and may not work in the event of an emergency. If you have sandbags, fill them ahead of time as it takes more time than you think.
* If you are told to evacuate, do so. If you have time, unplug your electronics. If you're experiencing flooding get to higher ground immediately. If you're in the house and flood waters penetrate, move to the upper floors.
* Remember that water and electricity don't mix. Avoid rooms with submerged electrical cords or outlets. If you hear cracking or popping or see sparks, stay away.
* After the event, it's natural to want to assess the damage, but wait for the 'all clear'. Water can cause structural damage. Additionally, there can be electrical, gas, or sewage issues. If you hear hissing or smell gas, leave the area and call the fire department.
* For clean-up, you'll want to wear rubber gloves and boots. Remove wet contents immediately to avoid mold and mildew. Thoroughly clean and disinfect compromised items.
* Think about flood insurance now. Most standard policies don't cover it and, once obtained, there is a waiting period before it becomes active. No matter what kind of insurance you have, make sure your policy is somewhere safe outside of the flood zone in a safe deposit box or in waterproof storage.
* Given the severity of the winter, it is likely to be a soggy spring. Rain, melting snow, and ice can all cause floods. Snow on the ground tends to keep air temperatures cooler and frozen ground doesn't allow rain to be absorbed. Large chunks of ice can clog waterways causing flooding elsewhere in the system. The snow cover in your yard is essentially gallons of water just waiting to break free. Add spring showers and storms, and potentially hazardous conditions can develop. Take some time now to prepare and reap the benefits later.
For expert advice on preparing for and dealing with floods, visit www.FloodSafety.noaa.gov.
For other helpful information about how you and your church can prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters, please visit the Mass Conference Disaster Resource Team at: www.macucc.org/macuccdisasterresourceteam
Rev. Estelle Margarones
MACUCC Disaster Resource Team