Just in time for hurricane season, beginning June 1, Catholic Charities of Central Florida has introduced the Emergency Services Program.

“Our emergency services are designed to help families before, during and after a tragedy hits,” said Gary Tester, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Central Florida. “As Catholics, we are called to care for others in whatever way we can. Through Catholic Charities, we are blessed to have so many opportunities to serve our neighbors.”

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis reminds us that everything is connected. He said, “concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.’’

The program, led by manager Julio Rivera, serves the Central Florida community by coordinating the preparation and implementation of a plan for emergency situations including hurricanes, tornadoes, forest/brush fires, flooding and other naturally occurring emergencies, man-made including large accidents, terrorist attacks, etc., and in recovery from these events. This program will harmonize with parishes, Diocesan facilities and risk management officials and others to insure that the most comprehensive approach to emergency preparation and response is available.

“Our goal is to serve as a gateway into the resources of the Diocese of Orlando, allowing access to pastoral services, behavioral health supports, possible facilities, case management, translation services, etc.,” explained Rivera. “The Emergency Services program will provide preparedness and response trainings to all parishes to be able to act when disasters strike. For individuals, we will also provide disaster preparedness materials, help to raise awareness, and provide case management following an emergency.”

Rivera said that it is important to have an emergency plan in place and to review and practice it at least once a year. For this hurricane season, the office suggests:

  • Identify a hardened room inside the home for safety during a storm and a location outside the home for the family to meet in the event the house must be evacuated quickly
  • Use a sealable 5 gallon bucket to hold a disaster kit that includes enough food, water, and hygiene products for one week
  • Place important documents in Ziploc bags and keep with your disaster kit
  • Purchase extra batteries for flashlights and radios
  • Ensure you have a car charger for cell phones or purchase a power pack
  • Keep the car’s gas tank full to avoid long lines at the gas station in the hours before a hurricane

In the event of a disaster, Catholic Charities Emergency Services will work with local parishes and community partners to mobilize all possible resources to people in need of support. For more information on how to receive help after an emergency, or for a full list of preparedness tips, contact 407-658-1818 or jr.rivera@cflcc.org.