Faith-based and community organizations’ participation in emergency preparedness and response activities
Recent natural disasters and acts of terrorism in the United States highlight innumerable accounts of altruism and resilience among individuals and communities. During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, local churches and community organizations—unaffiliated with a national voluntary organization—often served disenfranchised groups that are sometimes missed by more formal response efforts (GAO, 2005). These types of heroic efforts of the smaller faith-based and community groups are often noted in the popular press. Moreover, these organizations are explicitly included in recent federal policies as capable of leveraging their unique positions in communities to help prepare for and respond to disasters and other emergencies (GAO, 2008a).
To provide a descriptive synthesis of the state of the research on the efforts of faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs) in emergency preparedness and response (EPR) efforts, RTI International was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, partnering with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate’s Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division, to conduct a targeted literature review. This review identified studies that provide a preliminary assessment of FBCO capacity and collaborative networks related to emergency management. Included are examples of a broad range of approaches to increase FBCO engagement and coordination identified in the research and policy literatures that may help guide future program development.