Prayers, preparedness essential as Hurricane Irene travels north

With serious concerns for the safety of residents along the US east coast as Hurricane Irene moves north, the Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid [DCSHA] is emphasizing the importance of emergency preparedness, especially for local churches.

Especially recommended is Matushka Elizabeth Lien’s timely article “Parish Emergency Preparedness Planning” published in the OCA Resource Handbook for Ministries.  The article access it here provides information on basic and advanced measures for a volunteer team to help fellow parishioners and neighbors in the surrounding community in disaster preparedness and response.  A number of agencies and organizations are identified as helpful partners in establishing an effective program.

Matushka Elizabeth points out the importance of helping the elderly and disabled in emergencies.  The booklet, “Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and Other Special Needs,” available free of charge at or by calling the American Red Cross at 1-800-REDCROSS, is especially recommended.

The Department notes that September is National Preparedness Month in the USA.  This year’s theme is “A Time to Remember; A Time to Prepare.”  Federal, state and local governments are making available web and print resources to encourage preparedness and response to emergencies in their homes and communities.  Resources can be found at,, and city and county offices of emergency management.  In Canada, visit

In related news, the following update concerning Hurricaine Irene was posted on the web site of the Diocese of the South on Friday, August 26.

“As hurricane Irene makes its way up the east coast, parishes and missions in the eastern coastal areas of the Diocese of the South are bracing for the worst.  Saint Basil Church in Wilmington, NC, and Dormition of the Theotokos Church in Norfolk, VA, have already cancelled weekend services in anticipation of the expected flooding and generally hazardous conditions that are expected in the wake of Irene as the hurricane carves it slow path up the eastern seaboard.  Other parishes, such as Saint Andrew Church in Ashland, VA, and Saint Cyprian of Carthage Church in Richmond, VA, may yet be forced to cancel or curtail services.

“When Hurricane Isabel devastated Edenton, NC, eight years ago in 2003, members of Edenton’s Saint George Church spent the following days helping neighbors in Edenton contend with collapsed roofs, homes flooded by the Albemarle Sound, and possessions destroyed; other friends’ homes here were knocked off their foundations by the same storm surge.  ‘From Edenton’s perspective, the path and strength of approaching Hurricane Irene are practically identical to that of Hurricane Isabel, which we know so well, our memories haunted so vividly,’ reports John Morehead, a member of Saint George Church.  ‘As our town remained without electricity for nine days last time, you likely won’t hear from us for a while [after the impact of the storm].  But, with many of our members living within walking distance of the church, which stands in the historic district across the corner from Edenton Bay, know that we will pray the Hours and sing the Typika at ten o’clock this Sunday at Saint George’s, no matter what the circumstances and conditions, as always.’

“In low lying coastal areas and those areas particularly exposed to Irene’s high winds people have evacuated inland, some by choice, many by order.  It is unclear when it will be safe for people to return.  For everyone in Irene’s path, especially the elderly and those without some other place to go, this is an especially difficult and even dangerous time.  As such, the clergy and faithful throughout the affected area call on our brothers and sisters throughout the Diocese of the South and the Orthodox Church in America as a whole to intercede on our behalf and on behalf of all those who will suffer as a result of hurricane Irene, that our Lord would be merciful to us and keep us in His care.”