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New report highlights importance of religious groups’ involvement in disaster response and recovery

The September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina and, most recently, Superstorm Sandy offer examples of the critical role interfaith organizations, congregations, and faith associations can play during crises.

Faith-based organizations were close to two-thirds of the social service agencies involved in recovery efforts in New York in the aftermath of the 2001 terror attacks and in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Brie Loskota with USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture co-wrote the new report. She says 60 percent of Americans turn first to their religious leaders in times of crisis.

"The trust in validating the communications that they hear, the ability to deliver services in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, and then the long-term ability to bring people meaning and social connection—those are all supported by congregations," saids Loskota. "And those are all things that can suffer if congregations are not adequately prepared for those roles.

The USC report urges emergency managers to include religious groups in disaster mitigation planning.

Center for Religion and Civic Culture staff are working with various California counties to build more awareness of the report’s conclusions - and help develop institutional capacity - before the next major earthquake or wildfire happens.