As Mormons prepare for Hurricane Sandy, they live their faith

Published: Monday, Oct. 29 2012 7:00 p.m. MDT

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by Hurricane Sandy," said church spokesman Michael Purdy. "Local church leaders along the eastern coast of the United States have made preparations for the storm. Church representatives are in contact with FEMA, The American Red Cross, VOAD and other relief agencies to coordinate response efforts.

"The church stands ready to assist affected communities," Purdy continued. "Emergency response resources have been prepositioned in Bishops Storehouses in the area. These resources include items such as food, water, blankets, hygiene supplies, tarps, cleaning supplies, chain saws and shovels."

Local Church leaders will make assessments in the coming days and coordinate with response partners to determine further relief efforts, Purdy said.

Among local Mormons, however, the preparations have been more personal.

For example, in the Harlem Young Single Adult Ward the bishopric contacted members last week with a list of tips that would help them to "be ready and be safe," including developing an emergency plan for everyone in the household, putting together a basic disaster supplies kit, storing water and non-perishable food, monitoring information from public officials, being aware of the location of evacuation centers and looking after neighbors and members of the ward they have been assigned to visit as home and visiting teachers.

"Yesterday in church they read over the pulpit a lot of the public notices that have gone out, especially with regards to mass transit, since a lot of the people in our ward are completely reliant on public transportation to get around," Kennedy said. "And they really stressed watching out for each other, being aware of the people we home teach, and looking out for our neighbors."

To that end, the ward has created an online Google document and asked ward members to periodically update their status.

In Corbitt's New Jersey stake there was a conference call last week that included all of the stake's congregational leaders; leaders of the women's auxiliary, the Relief Society; as well as others in the stake with responsibilities for emergency preparedness.

"We pulled out our plan and went through all of the items that we anticipated would be impacted – from evacuation to power outages to transportation to communications to food and water – and we called on people to report their status," Corbitt said. "We gave instructions and assignments, and people are carrying them out as we speak."

Of course, there is always the possibility of things happening for which the stake isn't specifically prepared, Corbitt acknowledged.

"But we'll deal with those things as they arise," he said. "We are organized and prepared to respond. As the Lord said, 'When you are prepared, you shall not fear.'"

In Manassas, Va., stake leaders just completed their annual emergency preparedness exercise on Oct. 26, during which local church leaders went through a variety of possible emergency scenarios, including the possibility of a hurricane like Sandy.

"I don't really believe in coincidences," said Bishop Tony Padilla of the Manassas 2nd Ward. "I think we're as prepared as we can be, with procedures and systems and backup systems in place and ready to go. We look at this as a time to put our preparation into action. We're not afraid of this."

The same kind of preparation applies to full-time missionaries, who are representing the LDS Church in the Eastern United States. President Kevin E. Calderwood of the New York New York Mission said his mission has "an emergency plan in place and we have been planning and preparing for this specific hurricane for many days."

The plan even has a name: "Safe and Serve – be safe first, and then go and serve."

"As of Sunday night we have moved all 27 sister missionaries into the mission home with our family," Calderwood said. "We have food and water and plenty of beds for everyone. We also have access to a generator if needed.

"Our two daughters are loving this," he added. "This is the sleepover of a lifetime!"

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