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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.