By: Mark Leck
One Sunday, during the summer of 2007, I was walking into Church for Sacrament meeting when I was approached by the Bishop. He pulled me aside, apologized in advance for the circumstances of this impromptu conversation, and then proceeded to call me to serve as the Emergency Preparedness Specialist in our ward. I immediately accepted, after which, he asked he I would be prepared to speak about it for our next 5th Sunday in combined Priesthood/Relief Society.
“When is that?” I asked for clarification.
“Next week.” He responded with a pleading smile.
I promised to do my best, and grabbed my seat. That Sunday, I asked myself a couple of basic questions:
Q. “What is an Emergency Preparedness Specialist?” “What is my job?”
A. The answer seemed fairly obvious: “To prepared the members of your ward for an emergency.”
Q. “What is an emergency?” “How do I know if know if they’re prepared?”
The more I probed these questions, the more I realized a few fundamental things. 1) Emergency Preparedness means much more than having some extra food in storage. 2) I had no guidelines and could whatever I felt inspired to do (I liked that). 3) I needed a way to track if I was successful.
With these thoughts in mind, I came up with the idea of creating a new Certification Program. A merit badge style program that would breakup the various ways that people could work to prepare themselves for a disaster into manageable tasks. I decided to break up the program into three levels of certification. Level 1 – Would be reasonably accomplishable by all ward families; level 3 would represent a very high level of family preparedness; and level 2 would help bridge the gap.
Then I sketched out a quick outline of what I felt needed to go into each of the levels, and on Wednesday night I met with the Bishopric to discuss my proposal to launch this new program. As we met, we reviewed and revised each of the requirements for all three levels. Once we had consensus, I was given the green light. Then next few days after that I worked to prepare a Powerpoint presentation and handouts for our combined 5th Sunday meeting, and from that, this program was created.
Launching the program within our ward turned out to be very successful. Within the first year or so, we got 30% of the members level 1 certified. In the following years that number has risen to close to 60%. One of our ward members served on the High Council within the Stake and told the Stake Presidency about the program. I was asked to present it to them, which I did, and plans were made to launch the program Stake-wide, which we did in January 2009.
Word of mouth, as well as an old website I had up (www.hc14.com – which was for the Hobble Creek 14th Ward), helped spread the idea of the program. Soon I had requested from several other wards and stakes throughout the US and even in Australia. In fact, at one of our last Stake Conferences, we were visited by a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, and our Stake Presidency also passed along a copy of the Stake’s Ward Handbook for the Emergency Preparedness Certification Program (although to be clear, this this program is not sponsored by the Church in general, just by local wards and stakes that have decided to adopt it for their own purposes).
Needless to say, each time I’ve been contacted, I end up rehearsing much of the same information, and passing along the same files, etc. Finally, I decided to put of this website to help facilitate the program. The goal of this site is to provide all information nessecary to implement this program in a Ward or Stake, as well as to provide additional resources that would be beneficial to someone that is involved with emergency preparedness.