The Diocesan Emergency Preparedness and Response Task Force was given the go ahead by Diocesan Council this month to continue work on plans for the diocesan response earthquakes, floods, pandemics, and other disasters.

Following a presentation to the 40-member council meeting at St. Helen’s, Surrey, the task force was authorized to help a parish create a disaster plan this fall, expand the planning to cover one of the diocese’s ten deaneries – probably South Fraser - and prepare a Church Depot session for all parishes in the spring of 2007.

The task force was set up following reports about the difficulty dioceses and parishes in the Episcopal Church, USA, had following Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

Bonnie Fulton of Christ Church Cathedral, the task force chair, said that the Diocesan Synod Office should immediately devise a way to continue operation in case its downtown office is closed or heavily damaged due to fire or earthquake. She said an alternate site should be designated, and ways found to ensure that services, such as payroll, could continue if disruption occurs.

Computer backup records are currently kept offsite, but there needs to be a plan to determine how to restore the system, she said.


Diocesan Council at St. Helen's Surrey.

Eventually, each parish should have a plan as to how they will continue to operate without their buildings. She said that in the case of a major earthquake, many church buildings would be declared unsafe. Those remaining would likely be taken over by the provincial emergency services as community resources.

She said it is crucial that parishes located close to each other plan together, on the deanery level, because it is likely resources would have to be pooled.

Another potential disaster, the task force found, is a possible flu pandemic. “All structures will remain standing,” said Greg Kennelly of All Saints, Burnaby, a committee member. “But public meetings will be banned.”

A pandemic could cause a dramatic need for pastoral leadership,” he said, with many sick and higher than normal death rates. “But how will we meet that need?”

Ian Robertson of St. David’s, Tsawwassen, Delta, said that the dioceses of Toronto, Huron, and Niagara, are developing a template for response to a pandemic which should be available in September, which the Diocese of New Westminster should be able to adapt.

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In other business, Diocesan Council authorized TOPIC, the diocesan newspaper, to carry advertisements. Advertising policy presented by the Diocesan Communications Committee limits the space used for ads to not normally more than 15 per cent.

The Rev. Paul Strudwick, a member of the committee, told council that he didn’t anticipate the newspaper will actively solicit for advertising, but occasionally groups approach the paper asking for more space than they might otherwise be allotted in news columns.

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Both Bishop Michael Ingham and Dean Peter Elliott were absent from the Diocesan Council meeting this month due to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA, which like Canada’s national General Synod is held every three years.

Bishop Ingham was attending as the Canadian representative to the American Church’s Executive Committee and Dean Elliott because he is the Prolocutor (Speaker) of General Synod.

Other Canadian Anglicans at the US gathering are Primate Andrew Hutchison, his Principal Secretary the Ven. Paul Feheley, and the Canadian Church’s General Secretary the Ven. Dr. Michael Pollesel.

In the absence of the bishop and dean, Diocesan Council was chaired by Chancellor George Cadman, the diocese’s chief legal officer.