What Does “Be Prepared” Mean For Faith-Based Disaster Services?

EDS Director John Berglund in his hometown of New York City

The following was contributed for National Preparedness Month by John Berglund, Director of Emergency Services for The Salvation Army Greater New York Division.

Be Prepared first entered my mind through a Boy Scout manual, and at the time, the phrase played well with the black & white adventures I encountered on our first television set.  I learned that if I was ever going to co-pilot for Sky King, hunt with Daniel Boone, or ride beside Marshall Dillon, I would have to be prepared.  Preparedness, self-sufficiency, and making things right were the indelible messages travelling the airwaves at the time, and with the volume turned up high, I heard them all loud and clear.

Preparedness seems an appropriate slogan for the American Red Cross, whose vision statement includes “aspiring to turn compassion into action so that our communities are ready and prepared for disasters.”  If one visits the American Red Cross national website, under the Plan & Prepare section, there are instructions on how to prepare your home, family, school, and workplace for disasters.

Prepare also shows up multiple times in my concordance, and I’m confident that a preparedness lesson or two could be extracted from The Lamentations of Jeremiah, but in the context of Preparedness Month, I often think that emergency management jargon should be translated into more effective faith-based language.

Sound Stewardship is definitely endorsed by the Boy Scouts and the American Red Cross, but the term itself should have additional implications for The Salvation Army.  It implies a responsibility that goes beyond nonprofit management principles and good business practices.  It implies a special relationship to everyone and everything that is placed in one’s care.  And, because of that responsibility and relationship, it implies that emergency plans and preparations for all personnel, clients, and property should be in place and updated on a regular basis.

Sound Stewardship means not being caught off guard or unprepared to take care of what we’ve been given responsibility for.  Once that task is checked on the check list, then we stand fully prepared to respond to the needs of a public crisis.  It means being strategic rather than reactionary – planning now, building local capacity, and integrating services so emergency response and recovery efforts can be ramped up seamlessly in record time.

Sound Stewardship rather than Be Prepared or Preparedness Month is a more appropriate war cry for The Salvation Army and all faith-based organizations, in my opinion.  It should strike a familiar and pleasing chord that inspires strategic action.  And, with that action, I imagine, comes an affirming nod of approval from Sky King, Daniel Boone, and Marshall Dillon.



John Berglund serves as the Emergency Services Director for The Salvation Army, Greater New York Division, in the US Eastern Territory.  Over the past twelve years, he served as the EDS Director for the Southwest Division (Phoenix, AZ), as the territorial EDS trainer for the Western Territory (Long Beach, CA), and as the National EDS Director at TSA National Headquarters (Alexandria, VA).  John also serves as a team leader and trainer for The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Services (London, UK).

John has a twenty year history in nonprofit executive positions and taught nonprofit management at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona from 1995 to 2005.  He makes his home in Manhattan with his wife and two children.

For more information on The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services, please visit www.disaster.salvationarmyusa.org.