Florida is no stranger to the destructive power of hurricanes. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew caused $20 billion in damages to south Florida. In a 45-day period in 2004, the state was hit by 4 successive storms that caused $62 billion in damages. The 2004 storms were also responsible for 31 deaths in Florida alone.
As members of the body of Christ, we are first called to protect all lives and respond to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of families and individuals affected by a disaster. In addition, we should create a plan that protects the physical property and sacramental records of our parishes.
An effective disaster response plan must be parish-based. It must provide for a coordinated effort among Diocesan and Catholic Charities offices; parishes, county, state, and federal emergency authorities; the American Red Cross and other organizations responding to human needs. Collaboration is essential to maximize resources, minimize duplication of services, avoid gaps in service delivery, and ensure that those persons most in need receive assistance.
Parish representatives throughout the Diocese of Orlando have worked tirelessly in the past years to make ready for any disaster. It is incumbent on us to be prepared to do the right things (effectiveness) in addition to doing things right (efficiency). As we enter the hurricane season, Catholic Charities offers the following Family Disaster Plan as preparation:
- Know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge, flooding and wind.
- Prepare a safe room in your home.
- Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and shelter locations.
- Have an out-of-state friend or relative as a family contact so all members have a single point of contact.
- Have pets? Make a plan for their care if evacuation becomes necessary.
- Post emergency phone numbers. Make sure children know how and when to use 911.
- Check your insurance coverage. Flood damage usually requires additional coverage.
- Make a Disaster Supply Kit. Stock up on emergency supplies.
- Use a NOAA weather radio. Replace the battery every 6 months
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a wealth of information on their web site (www.noaa.gov) for hurricane preparedness.
Catholic Charities of Central Florida has put together a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan. It is designed to provide the framework for designated key staff, volunteers, and other parish members to prepare for, mitigate against, respond to and recover from the effects of all emergency and disaster situations that could affect the parish and its parishioners. The manual is available from Catholic Charities. For more information, call Alan Rettig @ 407 658 1818 ext. 4111.