The MPA in Emergency and Disaster Management
MCNY's Emergency and Disaster Management Blog
By Obiano Huntley
In the immediate aftermath of an emergency or a disaster many individuals usually turn to leaders of their faith for comfort and guidance. Such leaders should however be consulted and prepared not only for the recovery phase, but also in a more all-encompassing capacity which focuses on preparation, response and mitigation. This is partly the concern of the National Disaster Interfaith Network (NDIN) and the visit by its President, Peter B. Gudaitis made clear the importance of their role in fostering an inclusive approach, sensitive to the beliefs of the many faiths and religions.
Mr. Gudaitis’ presentation to Purpose 1 students at MCNY was highly informative and purposeful, not only with regards to the history and the workings of NDIN, but also in terms of the strides being made on a national level to consciously involve the faith based organizations in matters related to emergency management. Founded in 2005, the organization has gained national notoriety for its commitment and success in advocating for an approach by local and federal government which emphasizes the importance of cohesively reaching out and embracing congregations nationwide. To accomplish this end, convincing religious leaders to not only come on board but also build partnerships, educate their congregation, encourage volunteerism and properly counsel followers, have served as foundational aspects which must be built upon.
There were a few takeaways from the discourse which stood out and they are identified and expounded upon below.
a) Religious competency: Being able to interface in a non-evasive and respectful manner results in increasing the comfort level of all congregations be it Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or any other faiths. Educating all stakeholders about the traditions, meaning of emblems, titles of leaders and practices fosters collaboration and creates an atmosphere conducive to productive interactions.
b) Needs increased: In the aftermath of a disaster or crisis, Mr. Gudaitis pointed out that Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) and their houses of worship have served as shelters, centers for crisis management and counseling and as places of refuge. To meet the increased needs, training and education is needed.
c) Role of education: This was particularly stressed especially since emergency response plans, drills, and exercises are seen as important, but are rarely implemented. With houses of worship prone to coming under attack, increased vigilance is needed.
d) Growth: For there to be resilient communities, partnerships need to be formed, volunteers need to be acquired and trained and the growth of the organization needs to be supplemented with the support of local, regional and national entities, many of which are directly involved with religious leaders and organizations.
The incorporation of initiatives geared at preparing religious bodies is by no means an easy task; especially with many breakaways and sects and the sheer large number congregations to be reached and convinced about the merits of the approach NDIN promulgates. With leaders such as Mr. Gudaitis , his and like-minded organizations, and the increased interest and need for faith based groups to work together for the safety of the general populace, leaps have been made; leaps which will continuously make our communities and nations better prepared.
For more details about the great job that is being done at NDIN, select the link below:
Mr. Gudaitis also pointed out that there will be job openings soon, so it would be wise to check the website from time to time.
Ali Gheith is the Director of MPA in Emergency and Disaster Management at Metropolitan College of New York.
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