Saturday, August 13, 2011

Faith Communities Preparing for Emergencies

Next Interfaith Action Initiative Meeting Aug. 19

The next meeting of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative will be held on Friday, Aug. 19, at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams. (Please use the Eagle Street entrance).

Our discussion topic this month will be Faith Community Partnering for Emergency Preparedness with Vivian Orlowski of the Berkshire County Boards of Health Association.

Other topics to be discussed include forming a fund and food raising committee for the Friendship Center Food Pantry, formation of an NBIAI Steering Committee, and an update on the Northern Berkshire emergency voucher system.

Here is information Vivian sent me. Beneath that is the tentative meeting agenda for Friday.

Faith Community Partnering for Emergency Preparedness

Going about our daily lives, most of us assume having access to food, water, electricity, telecommunications and transportation as well as police and fire protection.

What would happen if we couldn’t count any or all of these vital resources for a few days or even for a few weeks?

That is a question that many people, including those in the local faith community, have been asking in the tragic aftermath of hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters since then. As we’ve seen in Western Massachusetts with the recent tornado devastation and the severe ice storms in 2008, we need to prepare for an all-hazards approach. Our public health and safety officials are in the forefront of local and regional preparedness, but should we just relax and leave everything up to them?

Not according to experienced emergency planners. They agree that, along with well-organized officials, the best defense against disaster is a caring community of people ready and willing to help each other during emergencies — certainly that includes most religious congregations. Mutual aid works best by making back- up preparations — thus minimizing the impact of the emergency.

By developing new capacity for emergency resilience within the faith community, this project seeks to protect lives, to minimize physical/psychological trauma from disasters, and reduce peak demand on first responders. Under the auspices of the Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council and in cooperation with the Region 1 Public Health Preparedness Coalitions, Berkshire County Boards of Health Association is coordinating the project in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire Counties.

Taking an inclusive approach for those with access and functional needs, the Faith Community Partnering for Emergency Preparedness project directly builds on previous work with community organizations and schools to help serve the needs of individuals requiring additional assistance in emergencies.

Clergy and members of the faith community will participate in focus groups and conferences and be offered specialized resources in print and online. Along with advancing preparedness planning for faith community organizations and their members, the project will open new lines of communication between the faith community and first responders, emergency management directors, public Health officials and the Medical Reserve Corps.

For more information, please contact project director Vivian Orlowski at Berkshire County Boards of Health Association (


Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative

Meeting: Aug. 19, 2011, 10 a.m. to Noon

First Baptist Church of North Adams

1). Welcome/introductions.

2). Moment of silent prayer.

3). Faith sharing.

4). Announcements.

5). Vivian Orlowski: Partnering for Faith Community Emergency Preparedness

6). Formation of NBIAI Steering Committee

7). Formation of Fundraising/Foodraising Committee

8). Williams College Food Drive and visit to Friendship Center on Saturday, Sept. 3, 10:30 a.m.

9). Voucher System Update

10). Report on homelessness meeting in Pittsfield.

11). Upcoming meeting topics, October and November.

12). Adjourn.

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