Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, other organizations ‘have areas of expertise just like state agencies’
by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — A new report by the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy finds that faith-based organizations are playing a key role in the ongoing Hurricane Harvey recovery — and that state emergency management leaders, specifically those in Texas, should bring more faith-based disaster response organizations into the sate’s emergency planning process before the next disaster strikes.
According to a news release issued by the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the report, “Time & Treasure: Faith-Based Investment in Hurricane Harvey Response,” points out these facts:
- More than 30 state, national and international faith-based organizations, including Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, have been involved in the response to Hurricane Harvey, which struck in 2017 and did $125 billion in damage in Houston and southeast Texas.
- Faith-based organizations have contributed more than $211 million to Hurricane Harvey recovery
- Faith-based organizations have logged more than 526,000 volunteer hours on Harvey recovery.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Kirk, Associate for Disaster Response in the United States for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance , said the report, issued this week, “affirms the understanding of the disaster preparedness and response community. Faith-based disaster response organizations have much to offer and they are a value added in all phases of a disaster.”
He said he’s seeing “greater recognition and integration” of faith-based disaster response organizations in the emergency planning process among various levels of government, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as state emergency management and local emergency managers.
It’s more common these days, Kirk said, to see faith-based organizations included in local, state and national trainings and exercises and to see them work side-by-side with governmental disaster response and recovery personnel.
“As disasters seem to increase in frequency and intensity,” he said, “it is crucial to live into the ‘Whole Community’ approach to disaster work where all have a seat around the table.”
The state of Texas, the report states, doesn’t maintain a system to tally financial or human resource contributions of faith-based organizations to disaster response. Nor are there standard formats used across faith-based organizations to record their own efforts. That lack of comprehensive data can lead to gaps and duplication in services and can increase the likelihood that public funds are being spent to advance sectarian causes, the report states.
The report recommends that policymakers integrate faith-based disaster response systems into the state’s emergency planning structure to a greater extent. Doing so would strengthen the state’s disaster mitigation and emergency management systems and improve stewardship of public and private resources.
A Texas state legislator, Rep. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, has filed House Bill 3616 to implement the report’s recommendations. The bill would establish an interfaith task force to help state emergency managers strengthen communication and coordination between public emergency management systems and faith-based disaster response organizations.
Bee Moorhead, executive director of the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, said, “Too often, public officials lump all faith communities together and characterize them as local charity. In reality, many denominations and faith traditions maintain professional disaster response networks across the globe, and those networks have their own systems and areas of expertise just like state agencies. Public sector and emergency response leaders should include disaster response organizations from a range of faith traditions in the emergency response planning process.”
Access the report at http://texasimpact.org/time-treasure/.
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