Ward Emergency Plan

The LDS Church Handbook encourages wards to “develop and maintain a simple written plan for the ward to respond to emergencies” (LDS Church Handbook 2: Administering the Church, see the section on Ward Councils). As the Emergency Preparedness Specialist in my ward, I was asked to put together our ward emergency plan. The plan has gone through several revisions as it has been read and edited by both our ward bishopric and the stake emergency preparedness specialist. Though the plan is not perfect, and will likely undergo future revisions, there have been requests to share it. Please find our ward emergency plan below, as well as several other emergency preparedness related documents and information that others in this calling may find useful.

Downloads

  • Ward Emergency Plan for Emergency Preparation and Emergency Response. Page one and two are designed to be passed out to every family in the ward. Page three and four are designed primarily for priesthood leaders.
  • Ward Emergency Preparedness Survey.  This survey serves two purposes, to inform priesthood leaders what resources are available in case of emergency, and to let them know in what areas the members of the ward are and are not prepared.
  • Stake Emergency Disaster Plan. This was created our stake. I don’t think they’ll mind me sharing it. Our ward plan was designed to fit into this plan.

Guiding Principles for Developing Our Ward Emergency Plan

Some, but not all, of the principles that guided the creation of our ward emergency preparation and response plan are:

  • Keep it Simple. Wards are to “develop and maintain a simple written plan for the ward to respond to emergencies.” (LDS Church Handbook 2)
  • Focus on the Family. “The family [is] the fundamental unit of society.” (The Family Proclamation)
  • Watch Over Neighbors. “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10: 36-37)
  • Utilize the Priesthood. “You don’t need any other organization. I have given you the greatest organization there is… Nothing is greater than the priesthood organization. All in the world you need to do is to put the priesthood to work.” (Harold B. Lee, welfare meeting, Oct. 3, 1970)
  • Take Individual Initiative. “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27)
  • Focus on doctrine more than behavior. President Boyd K. Packer has said that “true doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior”, and that “the study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”
  • Have Faith. “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)

Potential Disasters to Consider

As I began to formulate our ward emergency plan, one of the first things my mind turned to was thinking about the possible emergency situations that we need to prepare for. I considered many emergency situation, both temporal and spiritual. (As a brief side note, Elder Hales and President Uchtdorf have both discussed the spiritual side of emergency preparedness in recent general conference talks. Elder Hales encouraged us to be “spiritually self-reliant” and President Uchtdorf encouraged us to develop “spiritual strength” in preparation for “spiritual distress”. See Providing in the Lord’s Way and Coming to Ourselves.) With regard to the temporal emergency situations, these are some that we considered as we wrote up the plan (please note that the potential natural disasters in your area may be different than ours):

  • Higher Likelihood/Lower Magnitude: Loss of job/loss of income, Loss of a spouse (through death or divorce), Blizzard (home bound without power for several days), Evacuation due to fire threat, etc.
  • Medium Likelihood/Medium Magnitude: Severe drought or reduction in food supply, Major societal economic problems (runaway inflation, etc.), Minor Earthquake (5 or 6 on the Richter scale), Energy crisis (expensive or unavailable gas, rolling blackouts, etc.), and so forth.
  • Lower Likelihood/Higher Magnitude: Major Earthquake (7 or 8 on the Richter scale), World War/Nuclear Bomb/EMP, Outbreak of disease that requires quarantine or evacuation, House fire, etc.

Ward Emergency Response Plan Overview

  • Ward Emergency Response Plan OverviewFamily First. Each head of household ensures the safety and well-being of his/her family, tends to those needs first, and makes a report to the home teachers regarding needs and injuries. Each family should be contacted by their home teacher regarding needs and injuries, but if you don’t hear from them, try reaching out to them or your quorum leadership (EQ presidency or HPG leadership) or other ward leadership such as the Relief Society.
  • Next, check on neighbors. If you are able to do so without putting yourself or your family at risk, look in on your neighbors (members and non-members) and tend to their needs. Report their status to priesthood leaders as you are able.
  • Home Teachers. Each home teacher should summarize the information he receives and report the needs, injuries, and other pertinent information to his quorum leadership (block captains/home teaching supervisors or directly to the quorum presidency/leadership, depending on how your ward leaders decide to organize).
  • Quorum Leadership. The Elders Quorum presidency and High Priest Group leadership should seek out information on all families in their stewardship. They send a summary report of needs, injuries, etc. to the bishop (or bishopric member).
  • Bishopric. The bishopric gathers information on families in the ward and organizes resources to address those needs. They report injuries, needs, and other pertinent information to the stake leaders who will be in communication with local city and state agencies.

FAQs

In anticipation of potential questions, let me address two things: why is there so little about the role of the Relief Society and block captains.

Relief Society: This plan utilizes the sisters of the Relief Society in many ways. The the ward emergency plan should be reviewed and approved by the Relief Society and all other members of the ward council. If you download the ward emergency plan, you will see that the priesthood brethren are instructed to consult with and utilize the sisters of the Relief Society in the event of an emergency. Also, the family first directive to teach, prepare, and respond will frequently be handled by women, either jointly with their husband or as the head of their household if they are single. Women of the Relief Society will also be expected to follow the guiding principles of taking initiative and caring for neighbors. Having said all that, the role of the Relief Society could be flushed out more, and likely will be with further discussions and future versions of the ward emergency plan.

Block captains: Block captains are a convenient way to make sure everyone, member and non-member, in the geographic area of your ward, are looked after in the event of an emergency. Block captains can work well in areas with a high density of Mormons such as many neighborhoods in Utah, but they may not work as well elsewhere. I also think it is important that members of the ward not be confused by an additional layer of reporting. Members are more likely to know and be familiar with their home teachers, rather than a block captain. Block captains are a great way for the priesthood to organize itself, but it is not necessarily an effective way to expect the members to communicate in the event of a disaster.

Basic Principles of Self-Reliance

Work-Self-RelianceAs discussed in my post on the doctrinal basis of emergency preparedness, work and self-reliance are key aspects of having our physical needs met in good times and bad. These principles are, thus, essential to our temporal happiness. Our Father in Heaven, in his wisdom, has commanded us to “prepare every needful thing” (see D&C 109:8) so that, should disaster strike, we may care for ourselves, our families, and others around us.

The LDS Church teaches that families should become self-reliant in the following key areas:

  • Home and Food Storage
  • Finances
  • Education and Employment
  • Spiritual Strength

Home and Food Storage

LDS Church leaders have long encouraged members to prepare for unexpected emergencies in life by having a basic supply of food and water and other needs for the home. “We ask that you be wise as you store food and water and build your savings. Do not go to extremes; it is not prudent, for example, to go into debt to establish your food storage all at once. With careful planning, you can, over time, establish a home storage supply and a financial reserve” (message from the First Presidency, All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Home Storage, 2007). Families should always practice good sanitation and hygiene and obtain adequate medical and dental care, and in times of emergency, their home storage should include items to help them stay clean and healthy.

The Basics of Food Storage

Said former LDS Church President Gordon B, Hinckley with regard to food storage: “We can begin ever so modestly. We can begin with a one week’s food supply and gradually build it to a month, and then to three months” (To Men of the Priesthood, Ensign, March 2009). Here are some simple steps:

  • Three-Month Supply: Start by building a small supply of food that is part of your normal, daily diet.
  • Drinking Water: Store drinking water for circumstances in which the water supply may be polluted or disrupted.
  • Longer-Term Supply: As you are able, slowly build a reserve of food and other supplies that will last a long time and that you can use to stay alive.

The Basics of Family Finances

As noted above, Latter-day Saints have been counseled for many years to prepare for a variety of emergencies by having a little money set aside. “We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt. Pay off debt as quickly as you can, and free yourselves from this bondage. Save a little money regularly to gradually build a financial reserve” (see First Presidency Message, All Is Safely Gathered In – Family Finances, 2007). Here are some basic steps for complying with this counsel:

  • Pay Tithes and Offerings: The Lord has promised to open the windows of heaven and pour out great blessings upon those who pay tithes and offerings faithfully (see Malachi 3:10).
  • Avoid Debt: Spending less money than you make is essential to your financial security. Avoid debt and pay off what debt you have as quickly as possible.
  • Use a Budget: Make a plan of how you will spend your money and stick to it. Include Church donations, how much you will save, and what you will spend for food, housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, insurance, etc.
  • Build a Reserve: Include in your budget an amount to put away for a rainy day, and use that financial reserve only in emergencies.

Education and Employment

Getting a good education and employment are two pillars upon which self-reliance and temporal well-being rest. Members of the Church are advised by their leaders to get as much education as they can, including completing high school and attending college or a technical schooling where possible. “Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). Getting an education will help individuals develop their talents, find suitable employment, and make a valuable contribution to their families, the Church, and the community.

Spiritual Strength

Self-reliance also includes developing your own strong testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ so you can be self-sufficient spiritually. As Paul told the Philippians and as Moroni commented in the Book of Mormon, “Come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” (Mormon 9:27, see also Philippians 2:12) Church members have been counseled to develop spiritual strength and their own testimonies by exercising faith in God the Father and Jesus Christ, obeying Their commandments, studying the scriptures, and serving their fellow beings.

We can also develop spiritual strength and personal testimony by following the counsel of the living prophets to prepare physically as outlined above. The Lord has said, “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal.” (D&C 29:34)

When we have developed our own spiritual strength, then we can be as Job who, even though his family and friends scorned him, he kept his testimony of Heaven, and said with confidence about the Lord: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him…[and] he also shall be my salvation.” (Job 13: 15 – 16)

Doctrinal Basis of Emergency Preparedness

woman checking food for emergency preparednessAs I embark in my new calling as emergency preparedness specialist in my ward, I wanted to start by studying the doctrinal basis of emergency preparedness. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said that leaders, before rushing into the tactics of getting the job done, should start by stepping back and understanding the big picture. He said a leader should set the vision, focus on the Savior, and understand the why of what we are asked to do. Then you will be more likely to receive inspiration in figuring out how to get things done, and you will be much more likely to achieve your goal (from the Leadership Enrichment Series, November 9, 2011).

Heavenly Father Wants Us to Be Happy on Earth

The foundational part emergency preparedness, from a gospel perspective, was a little difficult for me to identify at first because it almost seems like a given that needs little verbalization: Heavenly Father loves us, and wants us to be happy, and doesn’t want to see us suffer.

  • During his mortal ministry, the Savior said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).
  • The prophet Lehi taught that “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).
  • The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 255-256).
  • Jesus Christ suffered and died for us so that he would “know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12).

The Savior had mercy on the people during his earthy sojourn, and healed the sick and afflicted in Palestine and in the Americas. The Lord’s love and mercy to relieve suffering and grant blessings is found throughout the scriptures.

Fathers’ Responsibility to Provide for His Family

Of course, a major part of being happy in this life is having our physical needs met. Everyone needs the basics of food and shelter. The Family Proclamation teaches that “Fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” This sentence doesn’t apply just to the good times; the Lord expects men to provide for the families come what may.

  • The apostle Paul taught that “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).
  • The Lord taught Joseph Smith, “And again, verily I say unto you, that every man who is obliged to provide for his own family, let him provide, and he shall in nowise lose his crown; and let him labor in the church. Let every man be diligent in all things. And the idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways.” (D&C 75:28-29)
  • “Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken; and if they are not found transgressors they shall have fellowship in the church. And if they are not faithful they shall not have fellowship in the church; yet they may remain upon their inheritances according to the laws of the land. All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.” (D&C 83:2-4)
  • “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God….Cease to be idle; cease to be unclean; cease to find fault one with another; cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” (D&C 88:119, 124)

It is clear that the Lord wants the physical necessities of life met for all individuals. Of course, as the Family Proclamation explains, there will be circumstances when a husband/father is not around. In those cases, family, friends should lend a hand to help meet those needs. “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”

Happiness through Work and Not Idleness

In 1936, the First Presidency outlined a welfare plan for the Church. They said, “Our primary purpose was to set up … a system under which the curse of idleness would be done away with, the evils of a dole abolished, and independence, industry, thrift and self respect be once more established amongst our people. The aim of the Church is to help the people to help themselves. Work is to be re-enthroned as the ruling principle of the lives of our Church membership” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 3).

Work is an important and eternal principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God works and it brings him glory (see Moses 1:39). The Lord commanded the first man, Adam, to work saying “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” (Gen 3:19) and in the Book of Moses we are told that “Eve, also, his wife, did labor with him” (Moses 5:1). I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi taught that he “did cause my people to be industrious, and to labor with their hands,” and soon thereafter he said that “we lived after the manner of happiness” (2 Nephi 5:17, 27). Good work ethic is a fundamental part of individual happiness, self-worth, and prosperity.

Self-Reliance

One final gospel principle basis for emergency preparedness of that of self-reliance. The Church has long taught that the responsibility for each person’s spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being lies first with themselves, second with their family, and third on the Church. The LDS Church Handbook says, “Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family. As members become self-reliant, they are also better able to serve and care for others…Church members are responsible for their own spiritual and temporal well-being. Blessed with the gift of agency, they have the privilege and duty to set their own course, solve their own problems, and strive to become self-reliant. Members do this under the inspiration of the Lord and with the labor of their own hands.” (From the Welfare section of Handbook 2, 6.1.1 Self-Reliance)

Conclusion

As we seek for happiness in this life, we will be more likely to achieve it if we are prepared for any emergency. When we are self-reliant and understand the principle of work, we will be better prepared to care for our own needs and the needs of our families and others. We will have the temporal blessings of safety and security, and as we serve and help others we will be richly blessed with Heavenly rewards.

Emergency Preparedness Specialist Calling

A couple of weeks ago, I received a calling in my ward to be the “Emergency Preparedness Specialist.” Seeing how I know very little about this subject, I thought I would document what I learn in my blog. Having this forum to write about emergency preparedness, I believe, will also motivate me, help me learn more, and provide me a place to post the resources I find.

An “In Between the Lines” Calling

When a member of my ward bishopric called me into his office and extended a call for me to serve, I accepted without hesitation. I then asked if he had any information he could give me about the duties of the Emergency Preparedness Specialist calling. He directed me to look up what it says about the calling in the LDS Church Handbook. When I got home, I went to LDS.org to the online version of Church Handbook 2. I searched and was ultimately unable to find information on this calling, but I wasn’t sure if it was that the calling didn’t exist or if it was just usability problems on the website. I pulled out my wife’s hard copy of the handbook, and searched some more, and eventually realized that there was no documented calling titled “Emergency Preparedness Specialist.”

Some time later I ran into a member of the bishopric in the hall at Church one Sunday. He asked me how my calling was going, and I said I wasn’t sure where to start. He asked me if I had read in the Handbook about the duties of my calling. I said I had looked but was unable to find that specific calling. He responded, “Yeah, that’s one of those in-between-the-lines callings,” and encouraged me to seek the inspiration from the Lord on how to magnify the calling.

What the Handbook Does Say Related to Emergency Preparedness

LDS Church Handbook 2: Administering the Church discusses the concept of the ward Welfare Specialist. It says:

“Welfare specialists serve as resources to help the bishopric and to help Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society leaders perform their welfare duties. The bishopric may call an employment specialist to help members prepare for and find suitable employment. The bishopric may also call other welfare specialists to help members with needs such as education, training, nutrition, sanitation, home storage, health care, family finances, and the Perpetual Education Fund.”

In the section on Ward Councils, it says:

“They compile and maintain a list of ward members whose skills might be useful in responding to short-term, long-term, or disaster-caused needs. They develop and maintain a simple written plan for the ward to respond to emergencies (see Handbook 1, 5.2.11). They coordinate this plan with similar plans in the stake and community.”

In the section on Stake Council Meeting, it also talks about emergency preparedness:

“Counsel together about welfare matters. Plan how to encourage members to be self-reliant. Ensure that welfare resources within the stake are made available to the wards as needed. Develop and maintain a simple written plan for the stake to respond to emergencies.”

In the section on policies and guidelines, the Handbook also briefly talks about emergencies.

“During an emergency, the stake presidency determines whether or not to hold regular ward meetings. In a community-wide emergency or disaster, the stake president may assist legitimate disaster relief agencies by allowing meetinghouses to be used as emergency shelters. The Church retains control. Stake and ward leaders ensure that people who use the buildings observe Church standards of conduct, including the Word of Wisdom, while they are in the buildings.”

There is also a sub-section on Self-Reliance, from the Welfare section of the Handbook. It is too lengthy to include here, but I plan to discuss that in a later post.

A Road Map Before Hitting the Accelerator

The counselor in the bishopric has, since that time, flooded me with ideas about what to do with this calling. He has talked to me about emergency response plans for the stake and other wards, about home storage and 72-hour kits, about proper sanitation and the handling of dead bodies, about nuclear weapons attacks and EMPs (electro-magnetic pulses).  For me, moving forward on just about any of those items feels a bit like speeding up when one doesn’t know where he is going.

I think the next step is to develop emergency preparedness goals and plans based on gospel principles, the council of the living prophets, and the needs of the people in this area. According to the handbook, such plans and actions are ultimately the responsibility of the bishopric and ward council members. Yet, the bishopric seems to be looking to me to take the initiative to get it started. I will take that opportunity and begin by doing my homework, properly framing the issue and then, by counseling with the our councils, discuss possible solutions and hopefully arrive at God inspired results.