SALT LAKE CITY — Two days before Hurricane Irma began pummeling the Caribbean islands, officials posted a document on the LDS Church’s Caribbean Area website detailing local emergency preparedness plans and responses.
General in nature and not specific to Irma, the emergency preparedness document shouldn’t be seen as a “quick fix” to weather the Category 5 hurricane. Rather, it sheds light on the advance preparations encouraged by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its organizations, members and missionaries.
It also serves as a reminder, with lists ranging from emergency supplies to steps to take before, during and after an emergency, whether it be a natural disaster or a political or terrorist event.
Titled “Welfare Department Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan,” the 19-page document — revised in June and posted Monday on caribbean.lds.org — has an appendix section dealing with hurricanes, appropriate for the Caribbean since an average of 10 tropical storms form in the Atlantic annually, with two or three usually becoming hurricanes.
In 2005, deemed a record-setting hurricane season, four hurricanes alone hit the United States — Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. And 2017 is already noteworthy for Harvey’s devastation in southeastern Texas and Irma’s historic wind speeds, its damage already done in the Caribbean and remains a looming threat to the southeastern U.S.
As of Thursday afternoon, 10 deaths in the Caribbean were being blamed on Irma’s wrath of 180-mph winds, with the toll expected to increase as the storm breached the Bahamas.
With the LDS Church dividing the globe into 25 “areas,” its Caribbean Area includes all the island nations and territories in the Caribbean Sea as well as Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname in northern South America. The area accounts for 212,548 church members in 497 congregations and is home to the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple, the Dominican Republic Missionary Training Center and eight missions.
And Irma is enroute to another LDS area, the North America Southeast Area, which would have its own preparedness and response plan.
Such plans are a starting point when potential emergencies come with advance notice. When an LDS Church statement, such as that issued Wednesday regarding Irma, says members and missionaries have been given instruction on seeking shelter, gathering food and water and preparing for the days ahead, much of the initial preparations come from such a plan, with additional details dependent on actual circumstances.
The LDS Church encourages all of its organizations — from its areas, missions and local congregations to individual members and families —to have plans for and make arrangements for emergency preparedness. The Caribbean Area document details how local leaders help cultivate similar emergency plans on the mission, stake, ward and individual/family levels.
A note atop the hurricane-preparedness section cautions that some Caribbean areas may be without water and without power for several months.
In that section, members are encouraged to inform others if they are staying home or not. Those in a cement or concrete residence are recommended to remain there before, during and after the storm; those in wooden or less permanent structures are asked to find safer accommodations, preferably with relatives or friends.
Safety tips include staying away from windows, doors and other openings and to be alert to flying objects and debris.
After the storm passes, members are to immediately contact their leaders and report their status as well as help with the whereabouts and condition of missionaries and members in their neighborhoods.
Each adult should have access to five gallons of water, in addition to several additional gallons for personal hygiene and bathing. Food items are suggested in another appendix section, as is having resources for light.
Additional instructions include maintaining an account balance of at least $50 and removing a reasonable amount before the storm to have available cash. Cell phones should be fully charged for maximum use.
Those with vehicles are encouraged to have a full tank of fuel and to park prior to the storm in an area that could be easily accessible afterwards and with less of a risk of falling, flying or floating debris.
Suggested emergency supplies include a three-day store of food and water for each person based on the supposition that refrigeration or cooking equipment may not be available. Food items include granola bars, trail mix, dried fruit, crackers, cereals, canned protein (tuna, meats, beans), jerky, canned juice, fruit cups and candy.
The supply list includes bedding and clothing items as well as fuel and light items, such as flashlights, extra batteries, candles, matches, lanterns and kerosene. Miscellaneous items include a can opener, disposable dishes and utensils, shovel, radio, pen and paper, axe or machete, rope and duct tape.
In the Caribbean Area’s emergency preparedness and response document, six main sections are listed under the following headers:
1. Preparation — How the coordinating councils of stake presidents help direct emergency preparation and response for the individual and family, with emergency plans to be created and followed at both the ward/branch and stake/district levels.
2. Communication protocol and resources — A listing of Caribbean Area leaders and managers with contact information and a protocol flowchart. Also included are information on emergency centers, emergency containers, transportation resources and satellite phones.
3. Guide for church employees — Reminders for emergency preparation and what to do in the case of a natural disaster (hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake) or a political or terrorist event.
4. Stake and district leaders’ guide — A list reviewing points of member preparation and methods of emergency communication.
5. Guide for mission presidents — Preparation items include each mission having an Emergency Action Plan distributed to and understood by each missionary as well as identifying safe havens where missionaries can go during an emergency. It also details protocols regarding illness, injury of death of one or more missionaries; efforts during a natural disaster, political unrest or terrorist attack; and the evacuation of missionaries.
6. Emergency response process — An outline lists how area leaders establish and maintain communications in the affected areas and on to area and church headquarters as well as how leaders are to assess impact and needs, to coordinate initial response and to respond to community needs.
Aside from the hurricane-preparedness and supplies/food sections, the document’s four other appendixes include an emergency response checklist, tips for dealing with earthquakes, operation of satellite phones and guidelines for disaster cleanup and church volunteer safety.