Access/GRACE Interfaith Disaster Readiness Plan

With the CRWRC-DRS

In the Event of a Major Disaster in Kent County, Michigan

March 2010

Key to Acronyms and Initials:

  • Access: Access of West Michigan
  • CRWRC-DRS: Christian Reformed World Relief Committee–Disaster Response Services
  • CWS: Church World Service
  • GRACE: Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism
  • VOAD: Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster


This document is meant to be a guide for Access/GRACE, CRWRC-DRS, and the Kent County religious community. Agreement on roles and responsibilities before a disaster occurs is important for a quick efficient response. The focus here is on the early response period following a disaster. The exact sequence for carrying out the tasks and responsibilities mentioned will be dictated by the good judgment of the people involved and the demands of the situation.

Roles of Participants

  • Access and GRACE each provides ecumenical leadership and coordination and serves as resources links among congregations and the community. Each facilitates and extends the work of the diverse religious community to the benefit of the broader Kent County community. Due to these roles, it is expected that together Access/GRACE assumes the role of spokesperson for the religious community and of convener of the meetings to address the recovery effort.
  • The CRWRC-DRS is locally based and has considerable expertise in facilitating disaster responses with interfaith groups nationally and internationally. Their trained volunteers with field experience and permanent staff are available locally. Requests for volunteer resources are considered immediately after a disaster and for long-term recovery work.

Immediately following a Disaster

  • First Alert Calls will be made by the Access Executive Director, the GRACE Leadership Team, and the CRWRC-DRS Director (or their designates) to the other(s) to begin their joint process of activating the program. Their conversations will cover their perceived extent of the disaster, and determine which action plan to follow. Action plan options:
    • Action Plan 1: The disaster recovery only requires linking inquiries with existing community resources.
    • Action Plan 2: The disaster recovery requires linking inquiries with existing community resources and calling a meeting of a selected group of people (the disaster will imply those to invite) to determine who can/will launch a group for needed recovery efforts.
    • Action Plan 3: The disaster is major and recovery requires activation of the Interfaith Recovery Plan. (See Recovery Plan below.)
  • Access Director/GRACE Leadership Team contact media and convene any recovery meetings that they and the CRWRC-DRS Director (or designate) [in consultation with the Kent County Emergency Management Directors] deem necessary to determine the role of the religious community.
  • The CRWRC-DRS provides trained volunteers, as deemed necessary by their Director and the Access Director/GRACE Leadership Team.
  • The American Red Cross works to meet the immediate emergency needs for victims of disaster, including food, clothing, shelter, and medical needs. Longer term needs such as rent, deposit, and household items may be provided, based on verified disaster-caused losses.

Interfaith Recovery Plan following a Major Disaster

Major disaster status is determined by the: Access Executive Director, GRACE Leadership Team, CRWRC-DRS Director (or their designates) in consultation with the Kent County Emergency Management Director.

  • Soon after the disaster: the GRACE Leadership Team, as spokesperson, makes a public announcement. (The Access Executive Director is a back-up spokesperson.) This announcement includes minimally that Access/GRACE:
    • Will serve as an information clearinghouse for area congregations.
    • Will form a long-term Interfaith Disaster Committee to direct the recovery effort.
    • Will set-up an emergency fund specifically for the disaster response.
    • Strongly urges that NO volunteers and supplies be requested or sent until needs are identified and resources requested. Note:
      • The annual letter to governmental offices reminds them of this.
      • Emergency response agencies have their own networks which can provide initial resources for 2-3 weeks following a disaster.
    • Will announce the location(s) of storage/resource center(s). Will stress: “Please wait for announcement of these locations before sending requested supplies.”
    • Announces telephone hotline numbers for use by area congregational and governmental representatives.
  • During the subsequent days, Access/GRACE will:
    • As soon as possible, convene the Emergency Operations Team which will guide the immediate response of the religious community. This team will be co-chaired by the Access Executive Director and the GRACE Leadership Team and will consist minimally of the Access Disaster Response Staff person, and CRWRC-DRS Director (or their designates). This Team will work out of a center located at the Access office.
    • Contact CWS [475 Riverside Dr., N.Y., N.Y. 10115, 212-370-3171] and request assistance from a Response and Recovery Liaison (DRRL) to help with the formation of an Interfaith Disaster Recovery Committee to guide the religious community’s long-term recovery from the disaster.
    • Serve as an information clearinghouse for area congregations regarding both needs and offers of help. This effort is facilitated by the Religious Community Representatives, identified by Access/GRACE, verified by their appropriate administrative structures, and are responsible for contacting the Access office [774-2175] for information and guidance concerning the response. (Calls from individuals are accepted, but individuals are encouraged to work through their Disaster Representative, if possible to limit phone load.)
      • CRWRC-DRS volunteers, designated by the DRS Volunteer Program Manager, will staff these hotline phones.
    • Places a CRWRC-DRS Representative, designated by the DRS Director, as observer in the following locations, as appropriate.
      • Grand Rapids Emergency Operations Management Center.
      • Kentwood Emergency Operations Management Center.
      • Kent County Emergency Operations Management Center, if space is available.
      • Each American Red Cross Service Center.
    • When appropriate, schedules the meeting of the religious community’s targeted Disaster Representatives (or their designates) with the CWS Response and Recovery Liaison to form the Interfaith Disaster Recovery Committee. If warranted, encourage the faith community to collaborate with a long term recovery committee that takes on the responsibility for disaster recovery in the area.
  • The Interfaith Disaster Recovery Committee will represent a cross-section of congregations, include Access/GRACE staff, and CRWRC-DRS consultants, and be of manageable size. This committee:
    • Serves as advisory committee for the duration of the disaster recovery effort (approximately 12-18 months).
    • Appoints a Disaster Recovery Director and secures necessary staff and appropriate office space for the recovery effort.
    • Requests, if needed, a needs assessment by the CRWRC-DRS.
    • Utilizes CRWRC-DRS and other available congregational disaster response agencies to provide long-term assistance.
    • Identifies a place(s) for use as a resource center for donated supplies.

Continuing Communication and Program Evaluation

Periodic review and revision of this plan is necessary to ensure that it meets the current disaster readiness needs of the participants and the religious community. Access/GRACE will:

  • Annually contact the Access Board, GRACE Board, and CRWRC-DRS for a review and approval of the plan.
  • Annually communicate the Interfaith Disaster Response Readiness Plan to:
    • The Disaster Representatives, targeted by Access/GRACE who represent a cross-section of Kent County congregations
    • The Kent County and Grand Rapids Departments of Emergency Management
    • The American Red Cross
    • Michigan VOAD
    • Heart of West Michigan United Way
  • Annually inform Kent County congregations via the Access/GRACE spring newsletters and by posting the Readiness Plan on the Access/GRACE websites, and
  • Contact the following agencies for inclusion in the Emergency Operations Team: American Red Cross, Area Agency on Aging, Church World Service, Feeding America, Home Repair Services of Kent County, Kent County Emergency Management Office, Kent County Department of Human Services, The Salvation Army, Heart of West Michigan United Way, (and FEMA if appropriate).

Click on the link to download the PDF Congregation’s Role in Disaster Response.