Homeland Security Heralds Faith-Based Organizations

Christian Emergency Network was one of 16 key organizations recognized in the newly released Homeland Security Institute report showing how faith-based organizations (FBOs) and secular nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) stepped in when existing governmental disaster resources were overwhelmed in the historic national Katrina crisis. 

"FBOs and NGOs undertook a surprisingly large, varied, and demanding set of activities with extraordinary effectiveness," according to the HSI report issued to participants this week.

CEN Chairman and Founder Mary Marr stated,"CEN is grateful for the outstanding record of Christian organizations represented in the report and welcome the opportunity to participate on behalf of over 7,000 CEN partners. I look forward to assisting Homeland Security (HS) in mobilizing the Christian community to prepare and help in times of national crisis in the future. We learned a lot from this study to better work together."

The purpose of the Homeland Security Institute report was to analyze Faith-Based organizations (FBOs) and their successes specifically during Katrina, which were in stark contrast to the many deficiencies and failures of government itself. By studying the FBOs best practices HS has learned how to help our nation become better prepared and ready to respond to disasters and work together more effectively.

The HSI report states:"Hurricanes Katrina and Rita exceeded capacity's of (existing) structure.In these larger events, governments and national agencies and organizations require time to mobilize, plus time to gather forces and supplies and move those to the disaster area. In contrast, the local FBOs and NGOs are already there on the ground, and those that are unaffected will endeavor as best they may to assist those in need."

As a result of the exhaustive FBO- NGO study, Homeland Security Institute offers 5 Recommendations to government:

  1. Encourage and learn from FBO and NGO best practices as identified
  2. Support overlooked FBO services such as routine transportation, children's programs, and pop-up shelters in response and recovery planning
  3. Include FBOs and NGOs in planning, coordination, integration, training, and exercises
  4. Resolve challenges that face FBOs such as Access and Credentialing, Long-term Services, Waste-Management and Sanitation
  5. Reconsider the appropriate balance between government and FBO responsibilities at the local and higher levels which provide a good, quick and flexible response to disasters

The report includes actual examples of surprising FBO success of organizations such as Operation Blessing, Nazarene Disaster Response, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Convention, Texas Baptist Men, and United Methodist Committee on Relief to name a few heroic Christian organizations who worked tirelessly amid the absolute chaos. It also categorizes the responses and skills needed to better reach a disaster zone for future relief.

One major finding in the report: FBOs and NGOs were credibly effective during Katrina even though they were not included in much of the government pre-disaster planning and did not have experience in such relief efforts. These same FBOs sheltered tens of thousands, provided meals and many services...for evacuees AND for relief workers and volunteers; with many still occurring.

Other questions answered in the full report were:

  • Did FBOs and NGOs have a significant beneficial impact during as well as after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita?
  • What were and are the services performed by FBOs and NGOs?
  • What are the limitations and challenges to FBOs and NGOs performing these services?
  • What best practices did they develop related to those functions?
  • If they did have a significant beneficial impact, why were they so effective?