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Helping Those Who Help Others

September 3, 2014
Tornado sweeping across a highway

In the wake of a disaster, helping hands are always needed. Hands that pick up the pieces after a tornado tears through a town. Hands to help find shelter for individuals and families whose homes have been destroyed. Hands that bring hope in the form of much-needed food, water and supplies.

These helping hands often belong to members of the faith-based community who feel called to provide assistance and emergency support. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA/HS) is working with these houses of worship and has created the new Praise & Preparedness program to provide tools and resources to help them get ready before a disaster strikes.

Earlier this year, we completed our Praise & Preparedness pilot program with a house of worship in Bartow County that had been affected by a tornado in January 2013. Since completing the pilot program, I have spent the last seven months introducing Praise & Preparedness to other houses of worship across the state. I have been pleased with the response our program has received, and I’ve been even more pleased to hear many faith leaders express their concern about making sure that their congregants are prepared.

Praise & Preparedness makes it easy for faith-based organizations to prepare. Our website has a template to assist in creating a plan that addresses operations, communications and other key aspects of emergency planning. Our online toolkit also offers a variety of resources to help organizations share information that promotes emergency preparedness among its members.

The end goal is to make sure that a faith-based community is prepared at both the individual and congregational level so that everyone is in stronger position to help in the wake of an emergency.

Houses of worship are a place of refuge and an ideal location to start recovery and healing. Now they can also be places that are prepared to handle emergency situations when they arise.

About the Author

Janay Stargell joined the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security (GEMA/HS) in January 2013 as the faith-based and non-governmental organization coordinator, where she coordinates Praise & Preparedness, a program that helps houses of worship and their members prepare, respond and recover from a disaster. She also helps counties establish Community Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster groups to build resiliency in local communities. Stargell is president of the Georgia alumnae chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority and an eleventh-grade girls Sunday school teacher. She graduated from the University of Georgia, where she earned undergraduate degrees in broadcast news and criminal justice.

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