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Churches Lend a Helping Hand

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A look at the role of churches in community resiliency

Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and mudslides are known for the extreme destruction they bring to communities when resources are overwhelmed. When disasters strike, local, state and federal levels of government have systems in place to effectively manage disasters and to prevent circumstances from worsening.

In addition, the assistance of non-profit organizations can be incredibly important, as their help can assist localities in managing aspects of a disaster – areas where the local, state and federal levels of government may fall short.

Churches have specifically become important to community resiliency in many regions, as scholars contemplate how communities can recover quickly from a disaster. Recently, Louisiana experienced devastating flooding, and churches in the area became important pieces in the rebuilding efforts.

The importance of non-profit organizations in disaster recovery

When a disaster hits, it is easy to forget about the non-profit organizations that are greatly assisting in the disaster. People often think about the government involvement, but can often forget about the other organizations that come together for assistance.

The Rand Corporation defines community resiliency as "a measure of the sustained ability of a community to utilize available resources to respond to, withstand and recover from adverse situations." 

Non-profit organizations often contribute significantly to a disaster. They help to bring in resources, food, water, clothing and other essential items supplementing the government’s response. Team Rubicon, for example, brings in volunteers to help manage the disaster, too. Their assistance supplements what the government can do in these disasters.

Part of the assistance web

Current disaster management scholarship is focusing on community resiliency efforts and how churches are part of this assistance web.

In Louisiana, several churches are assisting in the rebuilding efforts in the wake of the flooding. The St. Bernard Parish, for example, is helping to provide supplies, while the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans is providing counseling teams and will also be sending in volunteers to help clean up the area.

This assistance will complement the efforts of the local and state governments. Churches are an important part of community resiliency efforts because of the network of individuals it is already comprised of. Thus, they can mobilize quickly to help in a disaster.

Community resiliency

Emergency management is ultimately a complicated area. Plans need to be versatile and resources need to be vast to effectively manage a catastrophe. 

Of course, this is not always the case and, depending on what emergency managers have, disaster management can be complicated and tricky – at best.  Non-profit organizations can provide emergency managers with a lot of resources and manpower. 

Community resiliency is a new area of study and several scholars have mentioned just how important churches are to rebuilding efforts. Emergency managers need to be keenly aware of the networks in their own communities that can assist them in times of need.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, History, a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard and a Lifeguard Instructor. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and also serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians.