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.
- 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
- Family 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.
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.