Climate Connections Program Premiere at LA Churches

As a lead up to the Great ShakeOut, Dr. Lucy Jones and the Episcopal Diocese of LA are set to premiere a process to improve post-disaster communication, allowing faith-based institutions to better help their members.

On Sunday, October 15, 2023, in conjunction with the Great ShakeOut, seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones will lead an earthquake drill at St. James Episcopal Church in South Pasadena to demonstrate an essential post-disaster communication process developed in conjunction with the Episcopal Diocese of LA. Over the last year, several member churches across greater Los Angeles have been developing the Climate Connections Program to help congregations prepare for natural disasters, which are increasing due to climate change. The program to increase community resilience in faith-based institutions was developed by the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society with support from the Southern California Edison Foundation.

“If an organization wants to help after a disaster, they need to know who needs help,” said Dr. Lucy Jones, founder and chief scientist of the namesake nonprofit. “To connect with each other after a disaster is the first step in disaster resilience.”

“Dr. Jones’s work with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles is invaluable in helping our communities understand, first and foremost, that being prepared for disasters is something that takes proactive work,” said the Rev. Canon Melissa McCarthy, diocesan canon to the ordinary (chief of staff), who chairs the Bishop’s Commission on Climate Change on behalf of the Rt. Rev. John Harvey Taylor. “She has provided a space where relationships within and between congregations across the diocese have strengthened. She taught us that resiliency is based on strong relationships and mutual support. Her work has been transformational for us, and we are deeply grateful to Dr. Jones and Southern California Edison for making this opportunity possible.”

The pilot program involves six churches belonging to the Episcopal Diocese. All will be conducting a communication drill, and the drill at St. James is available for media coverage. The Climate Connections program, which includes the communication drill, is available on the Center’s website at this link. The exercise is part of the Great ShakeOut program, which will continue through the week leading up to October 19 at 10:19 a.m.

About the Communications and Earthquake Drill at St. James Episcopal

The earthquake drill will occur at approximately 11:25, just after the conclusion of the Sunday service. Dr. Jones will signal the start of the exercise by announcing an earthquake has struck, at which time parishioners will take protective actions in the church’s pews. The congregation will simulate safety procedures, which include dropping to the ground. Dr. Jones will then announce the earthquake has stopped, at which time the gathered crowd will evacuate the building to a designated area — in this case, the nearby parking lot. The ushers have been trained to assist after a disaster and will help everyone get outside, including those who are mobility impaired.

This will then commence phase two of the drill — a communications chain in which parishioners will be contacted via text to determine their safety. These messages will be sent to church members, both present and absent from the service. This communication chain is designed to occur after any disaster and will allow church leaders to create a preliminary report on the status of their congregation’s safety. The third phase will be text communications between the cohort congregations.