Preparing for disaster. What not to do. (LDS Church issues new Guidelines for Ward and Stake Preparedness)

"Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them" (Ezekiel 38:7).

LDS Church issues new Guidelines for Ward and Stake Preparedness.

  • Stake and Ward Emergency Preparedness Guide


"Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them" (Ezekiel 38:7).
Ward and stake councils may use this guide to create or update their emergency response plans (see also Stake and Ward Emergency Planning Guide). These plans should be brief and simple and are most effective when coordinated with community plans. Ward and stake leaders may consider calling welfare specialists to assist with emergency response efforts. Councils should review and update the plans regularly.

With the help of this guide you should be able to create:

  • A ward or stake preparedness plan
  • An analysis of needs and action steps

The guide includes the following five steps:

  1. Identify Likely Disasters
  2. Gather Critical Information
  3. Outline Assignments and Procedures
  4. Identify Emergency Communications Methods
  5. Encourage Member Preparation

The following emergency preparedness planning worksheets can help you develop an effective emergency plan in your ward or stake councils:

  • Disaster Review
  • Planning for Disruptions
  • Critical Information—Members with Special Needs
  • Critical Information—Equipment, Skills, and Communication Resources
  • Critical Information—Services
  • Actions and Assignments

Step 1: Identify Likely Disasters

As wards and stakes identify potential disasters in the area, the Disaster Review and Planning for Disruptions worksheets help them prioritize their planning efforts and identify short-term and long-term solutions. 

Disaster Review

The Disaster Review worksheet helps wards and stakes identify potential disasters and disruptions in the area so they can prioritize emergency preparations. It also provides a template for beginning preparedness and response planning on the stake and ward levels. 

On the left side of the Disaster Review worksheet is a column to list potential disasters. The other columns show necessities that could be potentially disrupted by a disaster, such as: physical safety, power sources, communication, shelter, and emotional and spiritual well-being. 

Using the Disaster Review worksheet will help wards and stakes prepare for disruptions. For example, whether the disaster is a hurricane, ice storm, snowstorm or landslide, it will require preparing for a disruption to the power supply. Wards and stakes cannot prepare for every possible contingency, so prioritize planning efforts according to the most likely disruptions.

Planning for Disruptions

The Planning for Disruptions worksheet is used to identify a disruption and plan solutions based on the highest identified needs. These solutions may be immediate (the first 72 hours), mid-term (the first few weeks) or long-term (more than two months). This worksheet focuses on the disruption rather than the disaster, since the need and response may be the same across disasters. For example, a flashlight is a useful resource in a variety of disasters where power sources are affected, but it would be limited as a long-term resource.

To complete the Planning for Disruptions worksheet, choose the highest priority disruption determine immediate, mid-term, and long-term response capabilities. 

Example: Damage to Homes
Short-term: In a disaster such as an earthquake, fire, flood, or hurricane, a key immediate response would be to provide or find temporary shelter for displaced families, such as in a meetinghouse or community shelter, until homes are cleaned up and habitable.
Mid-term: The ward may choose to purchase or gather supplies, such as tents or other structures, to help in temporarily housing displaced families. 

Long-term: This plan may include building more permanent shelters or following up with insurance claims. It may also include helping members find housing until their own housing can be repaired or replaced. Housing options could come from: 

Step 2: Gather Critical Information

Gathering critical information, outlining procedures, and identifying emergency communication methods can be done simultaneously using the Critical Information worksheets.
Communication is essential in emergency response. Part of being able to communicate in an emergency is having the appropriate contact and resource information. Gathering and maintaining this critical information enhances needs assessment and response efforts. Compile and maintain the following critical information, and update it regularly. 

This preparation will help you account for, assess, respond to, and report members' safety and needs in an emergency situation (see Step 3: Outline Assignments and Procedures). 

Create a map to mark locations in your ward or stake boundaries. Consider using, LDS Tools, or a printed map.

Print a copy each of the map and ward or stake directory to identify member households and missionary residences.

Using the Critical Information—Members with Special Needs worksheet and Critical Information—Equipment, Skills, and Communication Resources, identify and map:
  • Members with special needs (such as wheelchair assistance, oxygen, special medications, and so on).
  • Members with equipment or skills (such as medical or emergency response training) that would be useful in response or clean up efforts.
Using the Critical Information—Services worksheet, generate a list of Church, community and public resources that serve your area and would be helpful in response efforts, such as:
  • Church meetinghouses, facilities, and property
  • Public safety agencies (police, hospitals, and so on.)
  • Community or other organizations that provide emergency services, such as food, shelter, and medical care.
When filling out the Critical Information worksheets, identify deficiencies in the current plan. Use the Actions and Assignments worksheet to follow up with preparation efforts. 

Take Action: 

1. Create a map to mark resource locations in the community. Use the map and ward or stake directory to identify missionary and member residences and their contact information. 

2. List contact information for local Church leaders and welfare operations.

3. Use the Critical Information worksheets to identify ward or stake members with special needs and members who have equipment or special skills that could help in an emergency. 

4. Using the Critical Information worksheets, identify community services and public resources that serve the ward and stake and that are helpful to response efforts. 

5. Identify deficiencies in the current plan and use the Actions and Assignments worksheets to complete the plan.
  • Family or friends.
  • Ward or stake members.
  • Community resources.
Complete the Planning for Disruptions worksheet for each possible disruption. As the council completes the worksheet, identify any gaps in the emergency plan. Use the Actions and Assignments worksheet to complete the plan. 
Take Action:
1. Use the Disaster Review worksheet to identify potential disasters. 
2. Using the results of the Disaster Review worksheet, prioritize potential disruptions to prepare for. 
3. Starting with the highest-priority disruptions, use the Planning for Disruptions worksheet to create timelines for disaster response for each potential disruption. 
4. Identify deficiencies in the current plan and use the Actions and Assignments worksheet to complete the plan.

Step 3: Outline Assignments and Procedures

Plan how the ward or stake council will organize and carry out each of the tasks listed below, identifying who will be responsible for each task and how the tasks will be accomplished.
Designate a primary location and an alternate location where council members will gather after an emergency to direct relief efforts.

Disaster Response
Immediately following the disaster, the plan will help wards and stakes:
  • Account
  • Assess
  • Respond
  • Report
Account. The Church respects and may defer to civil authorities and their response efforts in an emergency, but Church leaders may also take independent action in behalf of Church members. Ward and stake councils have responsibility to account for all missionaries and members and to help with life-threatening circumstances. First, account for every missionary and member, particularly those identified in the Critical Information—Members with Special Needs worksheet. Consider accounting for members through home and visiting teachers. Plan how to account for missionaries and members if communication methods are disrupted (see Step 4: Identify Emergency Communication Methods). 

Assess. Refer to the Planning for Disruptions worksheet to help you plan how to assess member needs. For example, assess the members' ability to access additional power sources if a main power supply is disrupted. Determine how to assess missionary and member needs, member and Church property, and general conditions in the community in the event of an emergency.

Respond. Plan how to supply basic provisions and services—such as food, medical aid, temporary shelter, sanitation, and clothing—for members and others. Provide assistance to members who have suffered damage to homes or belongings, emotional trauma, injury, or loss of livelihood. 
  • Seek medical assistance for those who have been injured or who have other health challenges.
  • Coordinate response efforts (such as helping to locate or reunite separated family members) with civil authorities and community relief organizations.
  • Request assistance, if needed, from area leaders or Church personnel.
Report. Plan how to report the condition of:
  • Missionaries and members, as well as their locations.
  • Member housing
  • Church properties
  • The community (including roads, public utilities, commerce, facilities, and other infrastructure).
Report this information through priesthood lines up to the Area Presidency.

Take Action:
  1. Outline a procedure to account for every missionary and member, especially those identified in the Critical Information—Members with Special Needs worksheet.
  2. Outline a procedure to locate and reunite separated family members.
  3. Determine a procedure for assessing and reporting member needs in an emergency situation.
  4. Plan how to supply basic provisions and services—such as food, medical aid, temporary shelter, sanitation, and clothing—for members and others.
  5. Plan how to provide assistance to members who have suffered damage to homes or belongings, emotional trauma, injury, or loss of livelihood.
  6. Outline how to work with civil authorities and relief organizations to meet community needs.
  7. Plan how to assess and report the condition of Church buildings and property.
  8. Establish a procedure for contacting members and reporting information during a disaster.

Step 4: Identify Emergency Communication Methods

Refer to your Disaster Review and Planning for Disruptions worksheets to plan for communication disruptions. In addition, use the Critical Information—Equipment, Skills, and Communication Resources worksheet to determine how you will communicate in a disaster and what communication methods you will use. 

An emergency communications plan should ensure that Church leaders and members can:
  • Contact missionaries and members following a disaster.
  • Determine the condition of and potential impact on missionaries, members and their homes, Church property, and the community, and be able to report that information to appropriate leaders.
  • Coordinate relief efforts.
A key part of disaster response is for Church leaders to have open lines of communication with Church headquarters, Church members, and community leaders. Identify and plan for alternative communication methods that can be used in case the phone system, cellular phone service, power grid, or vehicle transportation routes are disrupted during a disaster. Such methods may include:
  • Internet communications (including e-mail, social media, and instant messaging).
  • Text messaging (may be available even if voice service is not).
  • Amateur radio.
  • Personal contact via walking, cycling, and so on (full-time missionaries might be able to help).
Alternate modes of communication are essential to an emergency response plan. Leaders are encouraged to identify individuals who may already have their own communication equipment and ask them to assist with specific ward and stake communication needs during emergencies. Wards and stakes should not purchase or accept donated satellite telephone or amateur radio equipment for use in an emergency. No permanent installation of equipment, including antennas, is permitted in any Church meetinghouse. Exceptions must be approved by the Meetinghouse Standard Plan Committee.

As needed, priesthood leaders may call welfare specialists specifically assigned to communication. Leaders may also use resources outside of the Church to assist in emergency communications planning.

Take Action: 
1. Refer to the Disaster Review and Planning for Disruptions worksheets to ensure that communication is covered for both short-term and long-term disruptions.
2. Ensure that the plan reaches out to all members, particularly those with special needs.
3. Identify members with communication equipment and skills within the ward or stake.

Step 5: Encourage Member Preparation

"If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear" (D&C 38:30).
The ward or stake emergency preparedness plan is complete only when members are familiar with it and implement it. Review the plan with ward or stake members, and encourage them to personally engage in preparedness efforts, such as creating their own family preparedness plans and participating in community preparedness events.

The ward or stake plan will be more effective by regularly teaching preparedness principles. (See the Emergency Preparedness and Response topics page). Consider how to teach these principles and who will teach them, and schedule teaching opportunities in council meetings. 
Teaching opportunities may include:
  • Priesthood and Relief Society meetings.
  • Sacrament meeting or stake conference talks.
  • Home and visiting teaching messages.
  • Emergency preparedness events (for example, a fifth Sunday lesson or a ward activity).
Wards and stakes are strengthened when members are prepared for disasters and disruptions. Review the Planning for Disruptions and Critical Information worksheets, and find areas where the ward or stake is less prepared. Consider inviting members to receive preparedness training in order to strengthen the ward or stake plan, better prepare them for emergencies, and aid in community relief efforts.

Take Action:
1. Find opportunities to share the emergency preparedness plan with ward or stake members. 
2. Complete all outstanding tasks on the Actions and Assignments worksheet.
3. Review and continue to update the plan regularly.

Emergency Preparedness

“We do live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties.”
President Thomas S. Monson (“If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Oct. 2004 general conference)


Members of the Church have been counseled for many years to be prepared for adversity. Preparation, both spiritual and temporal, can dispel fear (see D&C 38:30).

L. Tom Perry taught, “The need for preparation is abundantly clear. The great blessing of being prepared gives us freedom from fear” (“If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Oct. 1995 general conference).

With the guidance of Church leaders, individuals and families should prepare to be self-reliant in times of personal and widespread tragedy.

The Principle of Preparation

As members of the Church, we know that it is our responsibility to provide for ourselves and our families both in good times and in bad. Part of fulfilling that obligation is making preparations now to face whatever challenges may come our way. 

Spencer W. Kimball taught that we must be “anxiously engaged in a positive program of preparation.” It is not enough to hope for the best; we must prepare for it.

He explained, “The Lord will not translate one’s good hopes and desires and intentions into works. Each of us must do that for himself” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 

How does the Church prepare for emergencies?
The Church prepares for emergencies by establishing and maintaining an emergency response plan in each ward and stake.

Ward and Stake Emergency Plans

Wards and stakes should prepare for natural and man-made disasters that are likely to occur in their respective areas by creating an emergency plan. These plans are prepared under the direction of the bishop or stake president. They should be updated periodically.
Each plan should:
Use the Stake and Ward Emergency Planning Guide worksheets at in your planning efforts

How can I prepare for an emergency?

Church members are encouraged to make an emergency plan and update it regularly.
L. Tom Perry instructed, “Start now to create a plan if you don’t already have one, or update your present plan. … The instability in the world today makes it imperative that we take heed of the counsel and prepare for the future” (“If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Oct. 1995 general conference).

As you make an emergency plan, consider each of these elements. 

Avoid debt and live within your means

It is needful that we discipline ourselves by avoiding debt and living within our means. Doing so will put us in a better position to help ourselves and help others during times of personal or widespread crisis.

Debt should be avoided, “with the exception of buying a modest home or paying for education or other vital needs” (All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances). However, debt of any kind should be approached carefully.

L. Tom Perry said, “Necessary debt should be incurred only after careful, thoughtful prayer and after obtaining the best possible advice” (“If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear”).

But it isn’t enough to simply avoid financial tragedy; we should take care to spend less than we earn.

“We urge you to be modest in your expenditures; discipline yourselves in your purchases to avoid debt” (All Is Safely Gathered In: Family Finances).

N. Eldon Tanner described what happens when we allow ourselves to spend more than we earn:
“I have discovered that there is no way that you can ever earn more than you can spend. I am convinced that it is not the amount of money an individual earns that brings peace of mind as much as it is having control of his money. Money can be an obedient servant but a harsh taskmaster. Those who structured their standard of living to allow a little surplus, control their circumstances. Those who spend a little more than they earn are controlled by their circumstances” (“Constancy Amid Change,” Oct. 1979 general conference).

Living within our means allows us to maintain control of our circumstances. Falling into debt only leads to further hardship.

Gain an adequate education

In an ever-changing world, we must prepare for uncertainties. One way that we can do this is by first gaining an adequate education and then continuing to increase our knowledge and skill base as time and circumstance permit.

We have been counseled by the Lord to seek learning in a variety of topics by study and also by faith (see D&C 88:118). This training will prepare us to take care of our families and serve others.

“In our educational choices we should prepare to support ourselves and those who may become dependent upon us,” taught Dallin H. Oaks. “It is necessary that we have marketable skills. Education is mandatory to personal security and well-being” (“Learning and Latter-day Saints,” Ensign, Apr. 2009).

However, our commitment to education cannot end once we’ve received a certificate or gotten a job. L. Tom Perry stressed the importance of ongoing education, especially in regards to our vocations. He stated, “We can become antiquated in our professions if we do not stay up-to-date” (“If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear”). 

It is vital that we stay abreast of current industry practices and continue building our skill set. Doing so will give us the best chance at gainful employment

Keep a reserve of food and other supplies

Another way we can prepare for an emergency is by building up a store of needed supplies to help carry us through a crisis. 

Gordon B. Hinckley said, “We have built grain storage and storehouses and stocked them with the necessities of life in the event of a disaster.” But those goods cannot help us if we cannot reach them. He continued, “The best storehouse is the family storeroom” (“If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear,” Oct. 2005 general conference). It’s the most accessible reserve in times of need and the best suited to our individual needs.

As you build and maintain your emergency supply, include the following items:
Obtain First Aid Training

Another way to prepare for an emergency is to receive first aid, CPR and AED training through a certified program.


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