Natural disasters happen. Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and earthquakes, are just a few examples of disasters that could disrupt your community. When disaster strikes, people will likely flock to your doors seeking practical help as well as spiritual comfort. Your church should be ready to respond in an organized and compassionate manner. Being prepared for disasters requires proactive leadership from the pastor and church leadership. Here are five steps your church can take now so you can help before, during, and after an emergency situation.

#1 – Evaluate Risks and Resources in Your Area Through Data

Preparing for natural disasters entails three key processes: planning, preparation, and response. As you create emergency response plans, familiarize yourself with federal, state, and local data sources to determine the risks in your area. This information includes declared disaster areas, flood inundation maps, ShakeMaps that track the aftermath of earthquakes, and more.

In addition, the right church management software (ChMS) can connect you with church members who are either affected or who live close enough to volunteer in the event of an emergency.

This type of tool also helps you identify and recruit members of the congregation with specific skills, such as medical, emergency response, law enforcement, facilities management, and volunteer coordination expertise.

#2 – Raise Money Through Focused Online Giving

If you are not located in a high-risk area, the likelihood your church will be involved in a disaster is low. However, opportunities to help other communities affected by disasters abound. You can set up an online donation form to enable your members to give financially. For example, after a hurricane, recovery can be particularly difficult for people who do not have flood insurance. Setting up a benevolence fund is an excellent way to help people who need it most.

Leverage a giving provider that includes text-to-give or a mobile giving app. These options tend to be popular with those who are not normal givers but want to make a one-time gift. If your ministry doesn’t have an online giving provider, you can look to your ChMS provider for that service.

#3 – Be Vigilant About Background Checks

It’s tempting to leap into action after a disaster occurs. Perhaps you want to mobilize a team of on-the-ground helpers or open your facilities to house those who were affected. However, it’s crucial to employ background checks to protect victims from further harm and to reduce risks to your church.

Many people who step forward during emergencies are not in your typical volunteer pool. Some of them may not even be members of your congregation. Particularly when disaster victims include families, it’s vital to carefully screen volunteers — even if they are simply collecting food donations or passing out water bottles at the facility where you’re housing victims. Your ChMS should make it easy to vet potential volunteers. Make sure there is a link to seamless background checks included.

#4 –  Focus on Clear and Timely Communications

Confusion abounds before, during, and after natural disasters.  Therefore, rapid communications can make all the difference. Your ChMS should contain a robust communications module that includes mass messaging by text, email, and phone calls. This is the best way to quickly get the word out about disasters, mobilize volunteers, solicit giving, share information about emergency services, and pass on information to church members and volunteers who are affected.

#5 – Position Your Website as a Communications Hub

In some parts of the country, you can prepare for events long before they occur. For instance, if your region is prone to earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, or flash floods you can publish a plan on your website. This will ensure your congregation, as well as those in the local community, know the church is prepared to assist should disaster strike.

Your website is also an excellent spot to provide information for community members so they can craft disaster plans for their families. You can link to key websites for disaster preparedness, social services, and emergency services such as Ready.gov, the website of the Department of Homeland Security. Make sure your website is robust and makes getting to important information easy for the people you serve.

Lastly, Be Prepared

During a crisis, communities turn to churches for support. If you don’t plan for the worst, you may find yourself unprepared and unable to provide the necessary assistance. Without proper preparation, you risk exhausting your resources, responding inadequately, or — worst-case scenario — failing to respond at all.

Make planning for natural disasters an ongoing process. That way, if the need arises in your community, you can rest assured your church has done everything possible to assist.

FellowshipOne’s total ministry solution helps you meet the needs of your members and visitors, even during crisis situations. Helping churches connect to their members and visitors is at the heart of our mission. To learn more about how FellowshipOne and see how your church can benefit, schedule a live demo today.