When Disaster Strikes

An Action Plan To Prepare Your Church

by Pierre J Samaan

In May last year, a devastating flood thrust our church into the front lines of helping the community. Approximately 3 feet of rain fell within 5 days. The small city of Holly Hill, Florida, where our church is located, is in the center of a bowl-shaped terrain, into which the rainwater drained. The flood inflicted millions of dollars of damage on Holly Hill, Daytona Beach, and Ormond Beach. As the details emerged, we were the only church in the community capable of acting as a center for first responders.

We placed all of the church’s resources into play. Our pastor initiated his own action plan. This experience made us more aware of the need to develop a more formal Critical Incident Stress Management plan.

What is CISM?

Critical Incident Stress Management is an action plan for dealing with traumatic events. CISM provides a comprehensive crisis response protocol that large or small communities, organizations, churches, city, state, or national government agencies can use. CISM is a multicomponent intervention system that covers precrisis preparation, on-scene support services, postcrisis intervention and follow-up assistance, such as medical and social services, spiritual support, clinical Christian/pastoral counseling, and mental health referrals, if needed.

In 1983, Dr. Jeffrey T. Mitchell, in a trade magazine, introduced CISM for emergency medical service. At that time they called it Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD). It later evolved into CISM.1 CISM is an intervention protocol that helps reduce the severity, frequency, and impairment associated with spiritual, emotional, physical, and psychological crises.

On a church level this means that the pastor and staff do what they have been doing all along. But to accomplish this more effectively, the church draws up a formal plan that stretches the resources and helpers to meet the needs of the church and community. This CISM plan expands the faith-based community to reach out to local officials, such as the city and county emergency managers and teams. A CISM plan says to church members and the secular community that God’s people will help in crisis.

Read the rest of this article by obtaining a downloadable PDF of the Summer 2010 issue of Enrichment journal.