More than 400 people gathered Jan. 21 for a neighborhood preparedness fair sponsored by the Salt Lake Granger South Stake, viewing booths on gardening, financial planning, food storage and family disaster planning.
As has happened in stakes across the country recently, local community groups including the Red Cross, the Utah Department of Public Safety and the local fire department also sponsored booths on specific preparedness topics for the event. Other booths promoted physical, social, and emotional strength and child safety.
At the start of the 70th year of the Church's Welfare Plan, as it was called when instigated in April of 1936, fairs such as this are an indication of strong interest in preparedness across the Church.
The theme for the Salt Lake Granger South Stake event was based on information found on the Church's www.providentliving.org Web site.
David Park, manager of planning and administration for Church Welfare Services, said site traffic demonstrates a significant interest in self reliance. For example, the site receives, on average, 1.5 to 2 million page views each month. The volume of traffic increased after Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast last fall, he said.
The Church recently expanded the site to include non-English content. Brother Park said there have been thousands of downloads of key welfare, personal preparedness, and emergency response training material from the site to Latin America, among other places.
People, he said, view the site for several reasons. They want information on what the Church is doing to respond to current emergencies, they are looking for ways to provide help to those affected by disaster and they are looking for ways to prepare for disaster and increase their own self reliance.
"When these things get in the news, it always piques people's attention. They say, 'Maybe I can do something,' " he said, adding that events that lead to insecurity in world markets tend to focus the population's attention on their own personal preparedness.
However, the topic is not new. Church leaders have been urging preparedness since Old Testament times.
In 2002, the First Presidency sent out a letter, the most current First Presidency instruction on preparedness:
"Priesthood and Relief Society leaders should teach the importance of home storage and securing a financial reserve," the letter stated. "These principles may be taught in ward councils or in a fifth Sunday in priesthood and Relief Society meetings.
"Church members can begin their home storage by storing the basic food that would be required to keep them alive if they did not have anything else to eat. Depending on where members live, those basics might include water, wheat or other grains, legumes (beans, peas or lentils), salt, honey or sugar, powdered milk and cooking oil. When members have stored enough of these essentials to meet the needs of their family for one year, they may decide to add other items that they are accustomed to using day to day.
"Some members do not have the money or space for such storage and some are prohibited by law from storing a year's supply of food. These members should store as much as their circumstances allow. Families who do not have the resources to acquire a year's supply can begin their storage by obtaining supplies to last for a few months. Members should be prudent and not panic or go to extremes in this effort. Through careful planning, most Church members can, over time, establish both a financial reserve and a year's supply of essentials."
Kevin Nield, director of Bishops Storehouse Services, said Church leaders want people to be prepared for times of personal crisis, for unemployment, or for disaster. He has also noticed an increased interest in preparedness during the past several months.
The Church runs dozens of home storage centers, often called dry pack canneries, in the United States and Canada. The centers can be used by Church members to obtain and maintain their own home storage, he said.
In 2005, those home storage centers helped members put millions and millions of pounds of dry pack home storage items in their homes, he said, noting that is a slight increase from the previous year.
Brother Park said many people don't have home storage because they don't know where to start.
Those are the people that the Salt Lake Granger South Stake hoped to help with their preparedness fair. With the virtual smorgasbord of information, organizers now believe members of their stake will be better prepared for future emergencies.
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