Get involved locally

Health sector pandemic/emergency preparedness and response will largely be carried out through your regional health authority/unit, with non-health sector services being coordinated by local municipalities. Both will be working closely with their provincial counterparts. It will be important to connect with both municipal government and health planners.

The most effective response to a pandemic will be a local response. This means that it is important for your congregation to educate itself on pandemic preparedness, ensure that it is knowledgeable about its own community and area, has established local partnerships and connections and that it has established working relationships with the local authorities.

Being well informed on the availability of local services and resources is extremely important. These local connections are critical to a pandemic/emergency response and also reflect our commitment to being vital community partners.

Consider the following tips as you connect to key community partners:

  • Remember to first complete a resource inventory for your church. Come to pandemic planning coordinators with a clear description of your church’s planning process to date and a list of resources you can offer to the community. Think creatively! Your congregation can be a rich resource to the whole community. (See the checklists for examples of church resource inventories.)
  • Start by making contact with your local government (i.e. municipality) to obtain the contact information for the Emergency Measures Coordinator. If they do not have such a position ask who is responsible for the pandemic preparedness plan. Determine whether the municipality has developed a pandemic preparedness plan and explore with them how your congregation might fit into such a plan.
    If there is an interest, share your resource inventory with them. Except for the health issues, the local government is responsible for having an emergency plan in place for when a pandemic strikes. Clarify ahead of time how you can best continue to communicate with each other before, during and after a pandemic or other emergency.
  • As a next step, make contact with your local health authority (typically this will be a regional health authority) and ask for the pandemic plan coordinator or for whoever is in charge of pandemic preparedness. If there is not a pandemic coordinator, this may be a public health nurse or the Medical Officer of Health. Similar to the local government, determine whether the health authority has developed a pandemic plan and explore how your congregation might fit into the plan. Also share your resource inventory with them. Again, clarify ahead of time how you can best continue to communicate with each other before, during and after a pandemic or other emergency.
  • Become involved with your local Interfaith or Ministerial association to share, support and educate each other in pandemic preparedness planning and to connect with local government and public health authorities representing a greater critical mass. If other faith or community service groups are already doing pandemic/emergency preparedness planning locally, consider collaborating as you approach government and health planners. If you have done more work on developing a pandemic preparedness plan than the others, offer to share this information with the other churches and community groups and even host an educational event at your church.
    You may find that many churches are not engaged in this issue; you may first have to share information on when—not whether—a pandemic will occur. Your church may see itself playing this education role in the community. Encourage the other churches to develop their own resource inventory. Work out a communication plan for during a pandemic or other emergency.
  • Expand your knowledge of the community by creating a resource template of all the community resources and services that could be of assistance in responding to a pandemic and by establishing contact with the primary community groups. Check with your municipal government or health authority to see if such a community resource list exists for your community. If not, this would be a valuable addition to pandemic and emergency preparedness. This inventory would include service organizations e.g. Lions, Rotary etc, and community organizations e.g. community meals, seniors clubs, moms’ program services, housing programs etc.
    As with the churches, you may find you have done more work on developing a pandemic preparedness plan, so be prepared to share this information and in playing an education role.