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Natural Disasters: Six Things to Do (and Half a Dozen Not to Do)

I've been in emergency services for 16 years now. I would say I've seen my fair share of natural disasters hit this nation. This week is no different. As I write this article, we as a nation just went through a major hurricane. Another one destined to be even bigger is heading our way. As a first responder and chaplain to first responders, I thought it would be a good time to go over some do's and don'ts for natural disasters.

DO: Pray. In times like these there is a good chance people are dying and getting hurt. At the very least homes and businesses are being destroyed. Pray for protection and safety for all those who are in harm’s way.

DON'T: Theologize. Yes, it is easy to speculate that this may be God's judgment on a people, community, or nation, but now is not the time for it. Now is the time for action. We can theologize at some other point in time when people are safe and we have more information.

DO: Keep tuned to local news to see if you need to respond. Things can change quickly in a natural disaster.

DON'T: Overly fixate yourself on the news. Outside your door is still a wonderful world to experience. Granted, if you are in the path of the natural disaster unfolding, you will need to be more attuned to the news, but why bring more stress on yourself than you should?

DO: Prepare by making sure you have what you and your family need (see this list from the Red Cross). Different disasters require different supplies. Now would be an excellent time to make sure you have what you need.

DON'T: Horde. Other people need supplies too. We see TV reports of how all the bread, milk, and eggs have flown off the shelves of our local supermarkets in the advance of a storm. While it's good to make sure you have what you need, having more than you need will do you no good and will prevent others from getting the supplies that they need. If you have the chance, check in with your neighbors who may have trouble getting to the store to see if they need anything before you go.

DO: Be prepared to move away from the natural disaster. As any first responder knows, there comes a point in time where it is far more advantageous to retreat in the face of a natural disaster than to stick it out. If an evacuation order has been given, or if you think you don't have the resources to stick it out, then it is time to leave. There is nothing more important than your life or the life of your loved ones.

DON'T: Don't try to wait out the natural disaster. We here at the South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association love our first responders. While one motto of a lot of first responders is "we risk a lot to save a lot," we would ask that you don't put our first responders’ lives at risk because you want to stay. Our first responders have wonderful families and we really would like them to make it home safe (mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually). I'm sure you would feel the same for your family.

DO: Check on your neighbors, especially the elderly who might need some assistance. This is not the time to just think of ourselves. There are a lot people who will need your help at this time.

DON'T: Forget you are part of a community. In case you have to evacuate please remember that there will be a lot of people on the road. Be patient and be kind. There is no sense in adding panic to what could have been an orderly evacuation.

DO: Pray. We can't say this enough. There are a lot of things to pray for at this time, but for us here at the South Carolina Public Safety Chaplains Association we would ask that you keep all of our first responders in your prayers. They will be the ones who have to wait out the event and respond to emergencies as they arise.

DON’T: Panic. We know that prayer can change the world.

Chaplain Chris Wade

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