People who work to promote residents' spiritual health are being asked to also promote their safety -- by helping them prepare for the chaos that can come with winter storms, hurricanes, terrorist attacks and other disasters.
A handful of church leaders and county officials have launched a campaign called "Ready, Pack, Go," encouraging families to assemble an emergency kit that includes food, water, blankets, clothes and other basics. Campaign organizers are holding a series of 10 training sessions over the course of the summer, tailoring them specifically for religious leaders in the community. Those leaders then will be expected to hold training sessions in their places of worship in September.
"We're trying to help people understand that if we each have a home emergency kit, we will be a safer community," said the Rev. John R. Denninger, pastor of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Springfield and an organizer of the effort.
The campaign was developed after Denninger and others realized few people had emergency kits, even though in recent years the region has experienced the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as hurricanes, severe thunderstorms and heavy snowstorms.
Religious institutions are deeply rooted in the community and seemed a perfect vessel for the safety message, said Sandy Chisholm, community interfaith liaison for the county, who noted that her office has relationships with Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and other religious groups represented in the county.
"Hopefully, they will begin to reach out to people within their congregations who might not have the economic means to prepare themselves," she said. "That will be the next step."
Each training session this summer will be led by a representative from the American Red Cross, who will explain why the kits are important and what they should include. Then someone from Chisholm's office will talk about addressing emergency preparedness within the religious setting.
If all goes well, Denninger said, the September training will become an annual event connected to remembrances of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The hope is . . . that we remember every year to have our emergency kit stocked," he said.
More information about the campaign and the dates and locations of the summer training sessions are available at www.fairfaxcountycitizencorps.org or by calling 703-324-3453. Information about emergency preparedness is available at www.redcross.org/prepare.