Disaster Planning

An Assembly should consider how it will function to carry out its emergency plans and serve the community in the event its regular meetings are disrupted and/or one or more members become unavailable.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28

An essential ingredient of any disaster recovery plan is to fully and effectively communicate the emergency plan to those it will affect, to be sure believers are informed about where they can turn for help, and to practice carrying out whichever components of the plan are possible to practice. The practice afforded believers through the institute process is what enabled Bahá’í communities affected by the hurricanes to effectively implement responses to the conditions presented.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27-28

Assemblies may want to encourage believers to prepare a personal safety plan and to collect emergency supplies and essential documents that might be needed in an emergency or disaster. There are many sources for information on what such a plan might entail and what supplies and documents might be needed. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29)

In addition:

* Each community should establish a communication plan that includes contacts who are likely to be outside a disaster-affected area. This plan should be shared with the Bahá’ís, so they know where to turn, and where to check in, when the need arises.

* (800) 22-UNITE currently can serve as a supplement or backup, though not a replacement, for local provisions for locating displaced community members.

* Email and text messaging after Hurricane Katrina often worked when land line and cellular phones did not; community email and cell phone lists should be considered by communities that do not already have them, and this information be included in the members’ contact information given each Local Spiritual Assembly.

* Local Assemblies can identify commercial services that can assist with communications. For example: there are a variety of web-based services that automatically call an organization’s membership database and play a recorded message as a means of broadcasting information and alerts.

* Local Assembly Secretaries should use their Assembly email accounts as the first place they turn for information and alerts from the National Assembly, if their internet connection is functioning. Assemblies that do not regularly check their agency email may not be as current and well-informed as those who do. Assemblies may wish to investigate acquiring solar-powered laptops, batteries, or other communications devices that would be able to operate independently during power outages.

* The national Bahá’í community website at American.bahai.us is the National Spiritual Assembly’s primary method of up-to-date general communication.

* As some members of the community may not have cell phones or computers, and for emergencies when available technologies fail to work, Assemblies may also wish to devise alternate plans for contacting community members.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29

Bahá’ís need to be prepared both spiritually and materially to respond to disastrous events, and to assist others to respond, as well. Recent natural disasters demonstrated some basic issues that local communities should address which are generalized below. In a real sense, Bahá’ís simply need to do two things they have always done and are becoming increasingly skilled at doing through the cluster and institute processes: teach and build community.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 27

Before making such contacts, Assemblies should be thoroughly familiar with guidance from the National Spiritual Assembly’s Office of Public Affairs regarding contact with officials and non-Bahá’í organizations, and should educate the community about such contacts. Contact the Office of Public Affairs at http://publicaffairs.bahai.us/, bahaisus@usbnc.org or (202)833-8990 for more information.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 28

Community membership lists should be corrected and kept current in the National Membership Database at the Bahá’í National Center, so accurate records of believers are available for identifying and following up the Bahá’í population in the event of a disaster.

Assemblies are encouraged to collect information to better enable them to serve the friends in their care should an emergency occur, whether a widespread disaster or an individual situation such as the death of a community member without local family. Each Assembly should create a list of information it would need to suit the particular circumstances and needs of its community.

It is suggested that a broad range of information be gathered from believers, similar to the information on the sample form, Emergency Contact Information Sheet to facilitate:

* Contacting relatives or friends

* Locating a person who may have been evacuated from the area

* Aiding and assisting disaster victims with health or other issues

* Assessing community resources

* Preparing a disaster plan

* Being better able to respond to any number of unanticipated situations.

The Emergency Contact Information Sheet is available on the national Bahái community website in the Supplements to Guidelines section. All such information should be preserved with the utmost confidentiality and kept in a safe but readily accessible place. Assemblies should not send emergency information forms to the Bahá’í National Center.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 29