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DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships:
Presence and Insights into Implementing "Whole Community" Preparedness and Response
By Ed Peaco

Writer Ed Peaco takes you inside Communities Organized to Respond in Emergencies (C.O.R.E.) in Miami Dade County, Florida, the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, military and non-military chaplaincy, and Dave Fair's take on the Annual National Capitol Region Interagency Chaplain Conference.

Ministry of Presence: An Exchange on Nonmilitary Chaplaincy

During the IHS interview on May 24, Dr. David J. Fair, Chair of the American Board for Certified Master Chaplains, engaged Dr. Jannah Scott on the topic of chaplaincy and training. They spoke in the context of the Miami-Dade County initiative, Communities Organized to Respond to Emergencies (C.O.R.E.). They also referenced the January 8, 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

Fair: I don't know if this fits anything that C.O.R.E. might be doing, but we did something in my hometown of Brownwood about 10 years ago that we called No Further Harm. We got together a group of local clergy, and we created a one-day course called Community Crisis Clergy. We took local pastors and we put them through the training of doing no further harm in disaster emergency situations. The scenario of a child dies in a disaster: Don't say "God needs another little flower in Heaven." This was something we determined—seminary or Bible school prepares a pastor, and they mean well. Columbine was a tremendous example of a very heavy turnout of mental health professionals and clergy who had good hearts, but God bless them, didn't have a clue and did further harm. Because they said inappropriate things and just didn't know. So the course was designed to take local clergy and teach them how to do no further harm. Not drilling down deep. Just listening skills—ventilate and validate, letting the person ventilate—things like that. So that was highly successful …

Scott: One of the things we have been, within DHS, talking about is how to engage chaplains, like the CIA does, like the military does. It's still in the working process. … Your insight into how to engage chaplains is very meaningful, particularly as we've been trying to articulate this internally. It's helpful to know that some of the things we've been thinking about are being thought about by other people, too.

Fair: About the nonmilitary chaplain program, the concept is to take someone who maybe doesn't have even Bible school or seminary, possibly a layperson, who has the desire to assist the chaplain. And the concept would be kind of like a worker bee, very similar to the role of the chaplain's assistant within the military, but wouldn't have to have the ordination or the licensing or whatever, be vetted for the type of role, take the training, and find an appropriate place, an organization that could take them. It would be someone who could help mind the store. Or, as boots on the ground, you need as many hands as you can get. Particularly in shelters, we may send, we may have—I'm going back to Katrina—we had a shelter with 1,000 people. And you may have six chaplains, and, I mean, if we don't come up with the concept of citizen chaplains, so to speak, and even youth chaplains, with some training, to just teach. Again, I'm big on this do-no-further-harm thing.

Scott: Yes.

Fair: And if we can do that, we can create—it's just like the psychological first aid. Why can't we do spiritual first aid?

Scott: I'd like to add just briefly onto what you said, because I think this whole idea of partnering spiritual care with emotional care and mental health care is really where we ought to be. We tested that—I shouldn't say tested, it was the real thing. When the Tucson tragedy occurred, and we actually overnight worked with the Red Cross and a mental health agency to put together a training for chaplains. And we had mental health specialists, which the Red Cross uses all the time, come alongside. And in the midst of that disaster, they were able to partner mental-health specialists with the clergy, to be there during the memorials. We actually were deployed to several of the funerals—of course there were memorials going on all over the city—just to be a listening ear, but also to be watching …

Fair: … presence …

Scott: Yes, a ministry of presence, but also to be watching, because, as people became overcome with grief, we had the ability, then for the clergy to comfort. You also have the long-term follow-up, if they need it, with the mental-health agency, or the clergy of the spiritual place of their choice.

Miami-Dade County: Building a Model for Resilience

Background: Roots of the C.O.R.E. Movement

Numerous community and governmental sources have praised South Florida residents for their reputation of responding effectively and generously to emergencies. An initiative fostered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, in support of Miami-Dade Emergency Management, called Miami-Dade C.O.R.E., seeks to leverage that effectiveness on behalf of the whole community. More of a process than a program, Miami-Dade C.O.R.E. assembles a network of resources and people among local agencies and faith groups from the whole community, regardless of age, ability, ethnicity, religion, or station in life, to work together before, during, and after a disaster.

Miami-Dade's diversity includes large populations of seven different groups, which Dr. Scott said were crucial for creating a "whole community" model for others to use:

  • 1. Immigrants and people with limited English proficiency
  • 2. Elderly
  • 3. Children
  • 4. People with functional needs
  • 5. Homeless
  • 6. Low-income populations
  • 7. Youth of varying backgrounds

The roots of Miami-Dade C.O.R.E. can be traced to President Obama's White House Office of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, which coordinates the work of centers in twelve federal agencies. One of the President's priorities is to promote interfaith cooperation. The DHS Center, a center the White House Office supported by and housed at FEMA, focuses on this priority as part of its work. It also can be traced to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and the FEMA doctrine of "whole community". As stated in his 2011 testimony before Congress: We cannot effectively respond to a catastrophic disaster alone. Our planning and preparedness scenarios require all parties (the whole community) to pitch in, including FEMA and its partners at the federal level; state, local, and tribal governments; non-governmental organizations in the non-profit, faith-based and private sector communities; and most importantly, diverse individuals, families, and communities, who continue to be our most important assets and allies in our ability to respond to and recover from a major disaster.

Partnering with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate, the DHS Center funded a project called Building Resilience with Diverse Communities. The aim is to learn lessons in how best to leverage assets of the whole community to prepare for disasters. One of the goals of the ongoing project is to establish a model for other communities to use in strengthening resilience. The project has four phases:

  • 1. A desk study reviewing research, including examples of ways to increase the engagement and coordination of faith-based and community organizations in disasters.
  • 2. An analysis of the social networks, known as "social network mapping," for the Miami-Dade community.
  • 3. An organizational assessment phase, including an inventory of the assets that key disaster groups possess—infrastructure and human resources—that could be used in responding to a disaster.
  • 4. An engagement phase to enlist organizations throughout the whole community in the effort.

DHS Science and Technology administered the first three phases, which are research-oriented. The Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, in partnership with Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management, is facilitating the fourth phase: learning lessons from on-the ground practice.

The engagement phase of Miami-Dade C.O.R.E. began on March 31, 2011 with the first of a series of meetings in which representatives of community and faith-based groups volunteered their resources and learned about each other's capacity to respond. "We saw the value right off the bat and embraced it," said Curtis Sommerhoff, Director of Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management.

Dr. Scott outlined the attributes of Miami-Dade that made the Miami-Dade community attractive for the pilot effort: successful, committed emergency management leadership and staff, a diverse population, and a hurricane-and flooding-prone environment. "We wanted to choose a geographic area that really represented a great diversity," she said. "But we also wanted to choose an area where emergency management gets it right. And Miami-Dade County is one of the larger counties in emergency management that has been known for getting it right. They've been doing disaster response for years. We've seen where other municipalities have used lessons from Miami-Dade."


Miami-Dade C.O.R.E. (the engagement phase of Building Resilience) is implemented in four stages: assessment, engagement, self-guided training, and affiliation.

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