10 Oct 2019

How to Be Prepared for Natural Disasters

Kristen Calicott

It is said that the building houses the ministry, but the church is not the facility. The members that make up the congregation will make every effort to minister to those in need, with or without a church building. 

However, it is up to the leaders and staff of the church to make sure every effort has been made to protect its assets. With the increase in storms and natural disasters (or at least in the increase in communicated data), adequate property insurance is a must that cannot be ignored.

Being prepared for these events is a sign of good stewardship. By being prepared you, are ensuring that your congregation not only has a plan in place in the event of a natural disaster but also that the church is properly insured, protecting it from exhausting resources that your members and community will need. 

You have a much better advantage in responding to the needs of your community in the event of a disaster because you are prepared.

But why is this necessary now? Having just experienced recent natural disasters that wrecked churches and organizations along the southeastern coast, many are realizing that they had no idea where to start. They had no idea how to prepare for such disasters. And because they lacked policies, they were improperly insured to cover the amount of damage that accompanied these events.

Recent events that make you think

Most recently in the news was Hurricane Dorian, which wreaked havoc in the Bahamas before triggering tornadoes in South Carolina and finally making landfall in the United States in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. In 2018 Hurricane Michael was the first recorded Category 5 hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and it caused damage to multiple churches across the Southeastern United States. 

Redemption Lutheran Church in Panama City, Florida, was considered a total loss during Hurricane Michael, and nearby, Good Shepherd had significant roof damage. Rebuilding efforts continued months after the hurricane tore off the roof and blew out the stained glass windows of Macedonia Missionary Baptist.

Like many churches, Macedonia did not have wind storm damage insurance. This meant that the total of the estimated $750,000 repair costs rested solely on the church and its congregation. 

Meanwhile, First Baptist Church Lynn Haven just needed to wait on their insurance to settle their claim of over $5 million to rebuild. They were prepared and had a plan, and they are hoping to be back in their sanctuary by Christmas. 

At the west campus of Family of God, the fellowship hall collapsed, and 30 feet of the sanctuary roof was ripped off by Hurricane Michael. At their east campus, half of the roof tore off, and module buildings were significantly damaged.

Other natural disasters, like earthquakes and floods, can also cause detrimental damage to structures and material items. Contacting an insurance agent and determining how to insure your buildings properly and other property can save you headaches in the future. Replacing media systems and furniture can get quite costly when everything is water damaged or has been broken by falling debris. If you need assistance with purchasing a policy that fits your needs, or if you just need to speak to someone about additional details, contact Nolan Jackson  Insurance at (770) 361-5309 or visit their website here. (Please note: Nolan Jackson Insurance specializes in church insurance in Georgia and surrounding states. If you live outside of these states, Nolan Jackson Insurance may be able to recommend a church insurance company in your state.)

You can learn more about church insurance by reading this blog interview with Nolan Jackson.

Being prepared

You don’t want to have to think about what needs to be done or what items need to be located when a storm is knocking on your door. Knowing what you have and what you need is paramount in helping not only your church but your congregation as well. Churches often become shelters and safe havens during natural disasters, fulfilling the Christian edict to be a good neighbor. Know what risks you may face in your area, and make sure you have adequate coverage through your insurance policy.

It is recommended that you have emergency contact information for individuals and disaster response organizations in your area. Post it near phones inside your facility. Keep a list of mobility-limited members of your congregation and a plan to reach out to them if they need additional help or resources. Maintain a checklist of your three-day supply, including food and materials such as diapers and flashlights. Knowing what you need ahead of time is essential to remaining safe. Keep your insurance company’s contact information readily available, and know who is authorized to file a claim as well as ensure that information is updated regularly.

Keep an accurate record of your church’s assets, and make sure to keep it updated regularly. This information can often determine the amount that you will be approved to receive if you need to file a claim, and if your information is out of date or hasn’t been documented, it can cause problems. If you have a bookkeeper or accountant, they may have this information. If you don’t, call a specialist at StartChurch at 877-494-4655 to find out how to add an experienced bookkeeper to your team today!

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Help in times of trouble

Decide how you will help your community through these events. Will you provide shelter for those who have lost their homes or are temporarily unable to live in them? Or, if you live in an area that is not heavily impacted by natural disasters, will you support a church that is and lend them aid in their time of need? Consider beginning this conversation with your leadership team to decide before the need arises. 

If your church is in an area that is in danger of being impacted, consult with your insurance company and ask the hard questions. In what situations are you covered and for how much? Put aside any deductibles that may be necessary to repair the church, and stay ready.  

An excellent natural disaster manual for churches can be found here. (Please note: StartCHURCH does not have a partnership with this organization, nor do we endorse this organization.) The manual includes detailed plans and checklists for what you may need in order to get through a natural disaster. It also informs how you can prepare your church as a building, how you can prepare your church as a community, and how you can prepare your church to be ready to serve your community as a whole when an event occurs.

At StartCHURCH, we are all about supporting churches, ministries, and the ministers who lead them. Our mission is to help leaders like you protect what God has called you to lead. If you have questions about this blog or want to find out how StartCHURCH can serve you, give us a call at 877-494-4655 or click the button below to schedule a call. 

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Raul Rivera

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