By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA (LBM) – With hurricane season officially here, Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief state director Gibbie McMillan said churches and residents of the state must not delay preparations for the next big storm.
“For the most part, people live for the moment and what they can see, not thinking about what emergencies might happen,” McMillan said. “Unfortunately, if they don’t take the initiative, they will be unprepared when something major happens. You can’t be ready for every contingency, but we want people to understand that having a plan in place for hurricane season is important.”
Hurricane season was off to a busy start even before it officially began June 1. A sub-tropical system developed in the Gulf of Mexico and formed into the first named storm of the year. Alberto produced heavy rainfall and was cited as the cause for multiple deaths.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts an average to above-average intensity hurricane season for the year, predicting 10-16 named storms with five to nine of these becoming hurricanes — and one to four of these strengthening into Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricanes that pack winds of more than 110 miles per hour.
Hurricane season continues through November 30.
COMPILE A LIST, MAKE A PLAN
McMillan said residents should compile a list of critical items for surviving a disaster.
He suggested storing five gallons of bottled water per person in the household, non-perishable food to last the family at least five days, cooking equipment, tools, cash, first aid kit, medications, a laminated copy of important documents, personal hygiene items, sleeping bags and phone numbers of extended family members and friends who live in other states.
McMillan said a disaster plan should include a list of possible rendezvous sites near one’s home or in a neighboring state and a phone tree for making contact in case of disaster.
He invited Louisiana Baptists to participate in future Disaster Relief instruction and to take advantage of online training available at louisianabaptists.org/disasterrelief.
Four onsite training sessions already have been held in 2018, and another may be held later in the year.
McMillan said churches also should contact their association’s director of missions to obtain information on how to become a shelter or staging site for a feeding unit.
“Generally, whenever we begin to call people out to serve, it takes us about 10 calls before we get one person who can go,” McMillan said. “We live in such a life that most people have jobs, kids in school and obligations in other places, and they can’t just drop everything at a moment’s notice to go. If they’ve been trained, it’s a matter of saving a week where they can go and respond. Without our volunteers we couldn’t begin to do what we do.”
In the event of a hurricane, Louisiana residents can find which travel routes are impacted by visiting 511la.org. Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a news release that people should create a game plan now.
“We’ve already had our first tropical threat along the Gulf Coast this year, and as we know from first-hand experience, it’s never too early to prepare,” he said. “We must always be alert and heed all warnings from state, local, weather and emergency officials. Taking the time to put together your personal plans will help save lives.”
STAY CALM, PRAY
In the face of a disaster, McMillan said it’s essential to remain calm and follow the plan. He also said that is the time to be the light of Christ by helping others on scene.
“See the disaster as a ministry opportunity,” McMillan said. “Be ready to share the love of Christ. And pray, pray, pray.”
Though a hurricane has yet to make landfall in the state this year, Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief teams have ministered in areas impacted by other storms in the U.S. mainland and the Caribbean.
When multiple tornadoes touched down in Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Lincoln and Union parishes in early April, teams wasted no time responding. Units from First Baptist Church in Blanchard, First Baptist Church in Haughton, District 8 Baptist Convention in Natchitoches, Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association in Walker and Rolling Hills Ministries in Ruston cleared debris from yards and distributed meals.
A month later, students from the Baptist Collegiate Ministries of Louisiana State University and Louisiana Tech University helped with relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The island was devastated by a deadly hurricane last year.
During the same month, a chainsaw team from Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association ministered in Southbury, Connecticut, which sustained damage from powerful tornadoes that came through the area.