With attention in my area (Southern New England) turning to hurricane Irene,  as well as anniversary of 9/11 around the corner, I thought I’d highlight the Congregational Emergency Preparedness Manual (doc)  developed for UU congregations. It is a manual, in Word Document form, ready to be customized by local congregations.  Think of it as a template and workbook to help you guide your congregation’s emergency preparedness planning.    Below are excerpts from the manual preface and introduction. I share these excerpts in the hope that they will help motivate you to DOWNLOAD and share the manual. You may share this post using the buttons at the end of the post.  ~ Peter

Congregational Emergency Preparedness

About the Manual

The emergency preparedness planning/disaster response/crisis management is a large and complex field.  There are a multitude of types of disasters.  There are also a multitude of resources available to organizations for disaster preparedness planning. 

This Emergency Preparedness Manual is designed to give basic, general planning guidelines that can be expanded upon as there is time and resources available.

The material in this manual has been redacted, assembled and merged from several sources:

  • Florida Conference United Church of Christ, “Disaster Readiness Response Plan”
  • Southern Baptists, North American Mission Board, “Involving Southern Baptists in Disaster Relief: Serving Christ in Crisis”
  • UUA Crisis Response Team, “UUA Crisis Response Guiding Principles
  • Church World Services, “Prepare to Care: Guide to Disaster Ministry in Your Congregation”
  • UUA Trauma Response Team
  • University of Missouri
  • Ohio-Meadville District, “Elements for OMD Planning”

The manual was prepared by William Zelazny, District Executive, Ballou Channing District, with editorial review and content suggestions from Mary Higgins, District Executive, Northern New England  District,  Eunice Benton, District Executive, Mid-South District, and Julianna Dunn, Program Associate, Ballou Channing District.


A hurricane, tornado, severe ice storm, flood, fire, windstorm, utility failure, hazardous materials spill, act of terrorism or an attack by an individual can seriously affect the life and operations of a congregation.

Therefore, while it does take time and resources to do emergency preparedness/disaster response planning, congregations need to educate its staff and members about emergency preparedness and develop a plan because natural and human-made disaster cause major disruption in the life of a congregation and the lives of congregation members, sometimes taking years to recover fully.

While specific elements of disaster management depends on local economic, demographic, environmental, geographic and social conditions, there is a general approach to emergency preparedness for natural and human-made disasters.  This document presents information about the  foundational steps congregations, should take to be ahead of the game if a disaster should strike.   As time permits, further plans and specific incidents can be developed and added to the basic plan.

The main focus of this document is preparation for a significant area-wide natural disaster.  However, there are a number of items, that are marked with a “#”, that will also be of use for a congregations to deal with smaller, local disasters such as a building fire.

As a congregation develops its disaster preparedness plan, it is important that our work be grounded and guided by our Unitarian Universalist Principles.  The Unitarian Universalist Association Crisis Response Team has developed a set of Crisis Response Guiding Principles that can inform congregation leaders as they work on their plans

Safety – Meet immediate safety needs first.

Simplicity – Response procedures should be as simple and clear as possible.

Flexibility – Each situation is unique and evolving: policies and norms need to be adaptive.

Responsiveness – Response needs to be both timely and thoughtful.

Pastoral support – Pastoral support may be offered to those both directly and indirectly affected.

Prophetic role – Address justice issues.

Transparency – Response process includes accountability and openness.

Communication – Effective internal and external communication is crucial, and includes listening as well as speaking.

Coordination – Coordinate internal resources.

Collaboration – Seek collaboration among UU staff groups and with UU and non-UU entities.

Authority – Establish clear decision-making authority.

Openness – Be open to outside resources and expertise.

Stewardship – Practice good stewardship of the resources

Congregation leaders and encouraged to use this document and the other resources that are available for the district office and our Unitarian Universalist Association and develop in a timely manner a basic response plan.   The district and Association staff are available for information and assistance.

Download the template UU Congregational Emergency Preparedness Manual (doc)

Related Resources

Handling Trauma in the Aftermath of Disaster  (UUA)
Planning for Disasters for the Congregation and Building (UUA)
Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry (UUTRM)