Disaster preparedness for congregations

Recently, I’ve been thinking about disaster preparedness for our congregation here in Palo Alto. Fortunately, here in the Bay Area the odds are extremely low for blizzards, ice storms, typhoons or hurricanes; and tornadoes are rare (although we did have one tornado watch this part year). So I don’t have to worry about whether the steeple is going to blow down in a hurricane, as we had to in Massachusetts; nor do I have to know where the storm cellar is, as we had to in Illinois. But we do have to prepare for some potential disaster scenarios.

Two of the more common Bay area disasters shouldn’t worry us much in Palo Alto: we’re on the flats so we don’t have to worry about landslides, and we are far enough from the Bay that tsunami risks are low. However, our buildings are at some risk for flooding: we are in Flood Zone X, which is defined as “an area of moderate risk of flooding (roughly speaking, outside the 100-year flood but inside the 500-year flood limits).” Thus, while we should be paying attention to flooding, it’s not of the highest priority.

Our highest priority for disaster preparedness is, not surprisingly, earthquakes. The USGS “Shaking Map for Future Earthquake Scenarios” (click on the map for Mountain View) shows that our location, because of underlying soils, etc., could be expected to experience very strong to violent shaking (Mercalli Instensity VIII-IX) in an earthquake like the magnitude 7.9 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In other words, it could be bad, and we should be paying attention to preparing for this kind of disaster. So at the moment, I’m reading through the USGS publication “Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country”.

I’d be curious to know if your congregation has disaster plans in place, and what preparations you have made. Feel free to hold forth in the comments.

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