Mayor, Faith Leaders And Government Representatives Participate in Emergency Preparedness Workshop

Albuquerque, N.M. – “Be Prepared,” advised Albuquerque New Mexico Mayor Richard J. Berry, keynote speaker at an Emergency Preparedness Workshop at the church’s San Victorio chapel in Albuquerque. Drawing upon this Boy Scout motto, Mayor Berry, an Eagle Scout himself, addressed a diverse audience of faith leaders, city and federal representatives, and community members, explaining the need of both communal and individual preparation for disasters.

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L to R: David Cooper (Southwest Regional Bishop, Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship Church International), Paul Jew (Elder at Grace Church), Richard J. Berry (Mayor of Albuquerque), Daniel W. Lewis (LDS President of Albuquerque West Stake), Steve Rangel (Deacon in Roman Catholic Church), Dr. Jamal Martin [back] (Elder of Muslim Community), Elder Maxsimo C. Torres (LDS Area Seventy), Zachary Benjamin (Executive Director, Jewish Federation of New Mexico), Roger Ebner [back] (Albuquerque Office of Emergency Management), Rev. David L. Myers (U.S. Department of Homeland Security), Jannah Scott (FEMA, U.S. Department of Homeland Security).  (Photo by Deborah Fillerup Weagel)

Mayor Berry stressed that although government organizations, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Albuquerque Office of Emergency Management (OEM), play a vital role in disaster preparation and assistance, it is important for the community, including various faiths, to work together.

Another speaker, the Rev. David L. Myers, Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, pointed out that even though disasters can “blow down fences and make good neighbors,” it is better to build community relationships prior to a critical emergency. If people have worked together and created bonds before the incident, they can often bring together their resources more effectively.

Faith Leaders Forum of Albuquerque. L to R: Chuck Brown (LDS Public Affairs Opinion Leader), Jessica Rule (LDS Director of Public Affairs, Albuquerque Stake), Abbas Akhil (Islamic Center of New Mexico), Steve Rangel (Deacon in Catholic Church), Sandra Akkad (Islamic Center of New Mexico), Dr. Jamal Martin (Elder of the Muslim Community), Paul Jew (Elder at Grace Church), and Danny Whatley (Executive Director, The Rock [Baptist]).

Faith Leaders Forum of Albuquerque. L to R: Chuck Brown (LDS Public Affairs Opinion Leader), Jessica Rule (LDS Director of Public Affairs, Albuquerque Stake), Abbas Akhil (Islamic Center of New Mexico), Steve Rangel (Deacon in Catholic Church), Sandra Akkad (Islamic Center of New Mexico), Dr. Jamal Martin (Elder of the Muslim Community), Paul Jew (Elder at Grace Church), and Danny Whatley (Executive Director, The Rock [Baptist]).  (Photo by Deborah Fillerup Weagel)

Roger Ebner, Director of the Albuquerque Office of Emergency Management, presented four reasons why people do not prepare for emergencies: 1) It’s not going to happen, 2) It can happen, but not here, 3) It can happen here, but it won’t affect me, and 4) If it happens, the consequences are going to be so bad that there is no point in preparing. He emphasized  the need to overcome disaster denial and prepare personal emergency kits, because unexpected events can and do happen every year.

With additional presentations, including one from the Albuquerque Fire Department and another from the Albuquerque Police Department, the theme “Be Prepared” persisted throughout the workshop.

This unique gathering was made possible with the approval and coordination of the Faith Leaders Forum of Albuquerque. As LDS Public Affairs Opinion Leader Chuck Brown explained, this is “a group of faith leaders who meet regularly to foster cooperation, understanding, and community service by uniting their efforts to do so.”

Elders and Sisters from the New Mexico Albuquerque Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Photo by Troy McGee)

Elders and Sisters from the New Mexico Albuquerque Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  (Photo by Troy McGee)

The meeting opened with an interfaith invocation which consisted of three prayers: the first in Arabic by Dr. Jamal Martin, an Elder of the Muslim community; the next in Hebrew by Zachary Benjamin, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico; and the last in English by Paul Jew, an Elder at Grace Church.

Southwest Regional Bishop David Cooper, of the Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship Church International, presented “Faith Leader Reflections,” and Catholic Deacon Steve Rangel and LDS Chuck Brown provided closing remarks.

With approximately 225 attendees, LDS Elders and Sisters of the New Mexico Albuquerque Mission helped with parking, food service, displays, and general needs.

As Elder Maxsimo C. Torres, Area Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, emphasized, “In our preparation and efforts to meet disasters successfully, we need to always serve one another both in and outside our own faith group.”

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