Preparing Your Church Congregation, by JSX in Virginia

My preparedness background started as a youth.  My father took us camping often and had an amazing gun collection; I’ve been able to teach my kids what he taught me – great memories both then and now!  In the 1970s, my mom and step-dad bought a little 2-acre farm in the middle of nowhere.  We kept a dozen or so chickens, had a few garden spots (that seemed to grow and multiply with each new season), homemade soap, homemade root beer (an acquired taste!) a “sewing room”, a small orchard, solar heating, our own 250-gallon fuel tank, and a year supply of food (much of it canned at home) for a blended family of 10.  In the late 80’s, I got married and had my wife encourage me to follow the counsel of a church leader “to be prepared for anything”.  I did some homework, organized my gear and ended up teaching others for the last 15+ years the basics of being prepared.   My greatest mentor has been Glenn Anderson, who I met from the Yahoo group PrepJr.  (Check out his survival notebook section in the files).  I have taught disaster education for the Red Cross and served as a police reservist in a couple of small towns.  I enjoy ham radio, beekeeping, shooting, Dutch Oven cooking, serving in my church, backpacking/camping, canoeing, and delving into the many facets of being prepared and independent.  After reading (in quick succession) Lights Out [a free e-book], “One Second After”. and “Patriots”, I’ve been taking it up a notch and inviting anyone who will listen to join me in a more advanced state of preparedness.  I’ve bought extra copies of the books to loan out (or sent out links to acquire the e-books).  In my church, I am responsible to help some of our local units get better prepared.  During this process, I’ve thought how other churches might want to consider the same thing, and thought I could use this format to share what I have learned over the years.  Being a “work in progress”, here are the thoughts that I’ve come up with so far to help a congregation get better prepared:

Initial goals for this year:

1.  Basic “phone tree” functioning – map out and divide the church boundaries into geographical districts.  Assign each family 2 or 3 other households within a district to do welfare checks, especially during a significant event where loss of phone service is minimal.  Help your members become their brother’s keeper.

2.  List of those with special needs – physical handicaps, mentally or emotionally challenged, critical medicines and/or durable medical equipment.  Make plans on how they can be helped.

3.  Define resources across your membership: specialized skill sets (medical, transport, security, heavy equipment & operators, “prepared”/food storage, etc.)

4.  List of homes willing and able to take in refugees (consider list from #3).  Consult the map to help determine closest options and alternate routing if needed.

5.  Emergency Communications training – locate current ham radio operators across the area and establish a scheduled net to practice traffic handling and prepare to facilitate communications in the event of an emergency.  Use their homes as focal points for the collecting of information.  (If ham operators are non-existent, skip to item #7.) Also, consider befriending local hams and arrange the use of their skills and equipment until such time as you can provide your own Emergency Communications.  Local church leadership can help coordinate assistance as information comes in from across the area.

6. Hold a “Preparedness Fair” to help motivate/kick start the basic concepts of home storage and self-reliance.  Plan to hold mini-classes as members start to see the wisdom of being prepared.

Goals for next year:

7.  Begin ham radio classes – encourage those in church leadership to at least obtain a Technicians license in order to allow “local” communications.  It’s not that hard. Invite the membership to participate.  As more members obtain their licenses, the geographical districts become more manageable and communication is simplified.  Information sharing, especially health hazards, is absolutely critical in allocating the resources available.  It is also a psychological boost to be able to share and learn about local conditions.  Contact your local ham radio club(s) for assistance or go to

8.  “Disaster Communication” tree – those who choose not to get their ham radio license, make use of what is available outside of phones/internet:  (FRS radios, CB, GMRS, car, bike, foot).  Practice communicating without normal means and check on those in each district. Set up specific hours and frequencies and see how well the equipment works.  For those who are unable to participate “electronically”, a runner will need to knock on the door.  Might encourage more to consider other options.  The goal is to be able to check on each member of your congregation.  Use local weather events to activate communications (flash floods, snow storms, ice, etc).  Encourage acquisition of NOAA weather radio with Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME).

9.  Advanced prep classes (designed for those who have at least a couple of months of food storage and have a basic vision of preps):

  • Camping skills and equipment (the foundational layer of being prepared in general)
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Alternate water/lighting/cooking and fuel storage options
  • How to stay warm/freeze protection – alternative heat sources for the home
  • Real “Bug-out-bags” and optional transport
  • Pressure canning, dry-pack, dehydrating, local cannery, etc – food preservation
  • Gardening & herbs – no matter where you live you can grow something
  • Beekeeping
  • Hunting & game “preparation” – team up “novices” with experienced hunters willing to share.  Opportunity to teach many outdoor skills.
  • Home defense & security
  • Practical map & compass and GPS use
  • Raising farm animals
  • EMP preparations (grounded Faraday cages for all critical electronic devices)
  • Prep library – fiction and non-fiction, a never-ending collection. Begin discussion groups to open up the thought process of what we can do right now.  Helps keep “the eye on the ball”.

Goals for the following year:

  1. Pre-positioning & movement of gear – trucks & trailers available to haul members gear to a centralized point if personal safety becomes an issue.
  2. Rally points: Look for areas that allow for shelters/tent sites, water sources, firewood, pre-dug latrines, defense trenches, LP/OP, graves, etc dug while machinery is easily available; perhaps a members property/farm or hunting camp.
  3. Backup plans for those unable to report (see #3) due to their own challenges or needing to use there own “resources” elsewhere.  Cross train.
  4. Security detail:  Safety, Training, practice, CCW,  proper storage of guns and ammo.

Other considerations:

– Any members with large tracts of land that would be willing to “invite” the membership and like-minded individuals to gather for safety (see point #10 & #11)
– Airplane/ultra-lite for recon
– “EMP proof” vehicles (plan to have necessary spare parts on hand)
– Those with farm animals, fuel storage, solar panels, wood lot/firewood
– Potential access to a pharmacy, backup refrigeration for critical meds
Organized responsibilities: Medical, Security, Sanitation, Burial, Water collection/treatment, Hunter/Gatherer, Construction/Home repair, Firewood collection, Mechanical, Plumbing, Electrical, Communications, etc.

I have appreciated the opportunity to organize my thoughts as I am preparing to implement the plan above.  I just recently discovered SurvivalBlog,\ and found that it is a treasure of knowledge.  Thank you for your time and efforts to help us be better prepared.