La Nina Weather Affecting Churches

Insight into what a church had to face when the Mary River was affected by La Nina weather...

Image taken during the 2013 floods

The town of Tinana is located on the south-western bank of the Mary River, opposite the town of Maryborough and is home to Tinana Christian Church.  

Pastors Kerry and Janita Shipp have faithfully pastored the church for the past 20 years, during which time the church has built a strong community presence. Ps Kerry and his team are also acutely aware of the flood risk that their community must manage being in such close proximity to the Mary River.

The Mary River has proven to be a force to be reckoned with many times. In early January this year, the people of Maryborough, Tinana and the surrounding areas were on high flood alert after more than 700mm of rain fell over two days in the Kandanga catchment area.

With floodwaters expected to peak at 10.5m, Ps Kerry knew that the church property would be significantly impacted should the worst-case scenario be realised. A dedicated and experienced band of volunteers from the church leapt into action to protect their church from imminent danger. 

We caught up with Ps Kerry to find out more about their emergency and disaster planning process and how they have gone about trying to minimise loss and disruption to their church.

When the church was first built back in 1997, the town's flood history was at the forefront of their minds. The design of the building used construction techniques to prevent water from being retained in wall cavities and utilised marine ply to line internal walls. Thoughtful planning meant that damage to the building would be reduced and enabled a flood-damaged building to be flushed out with a fire hose to aid quicker cleanups.   

In 2013, the planning and design of the church building were tested when the property suffered flood damage – the damage was extensive, but the recovery was swift. Ps Kerry attests that in most instances, relatively normal operations of the church would be able to resume within a few weeks of a significant flood event. 

As part of the church's standard risk management plans, key church members regularly monitor the Bureau of Meteorology websites which tracks changes in the river levels. The local Fraser Coast Shire also monitors river condition changes. It provides mobile phone alerts to residents and businesses to enact their flood plans. Volunteer teams from the church remain in contact via social media apps. They will respond when a call to action is announced.

As flood markers began to rise on the 8th of January this year, a dedicated team of church volunteers undertook a 24-hour vigil at the church to monitor the situation. It soon became apparent that the rear youth hall and expensive air-conditioning units around the main church building could be under direct threat.

Image taken during the 2013 floods

The church's emergency response team quickly cleared out the contents of the youth shed, relocating valuable sound, electronic and data equipment to higher ground. They also engaged qualified tradespeople to disconnect air-conditioning units and remove them from the site to avoid damage.

In the end, the river only peaked at 9.95m and the church was not directly affected; however, some key learnings can be taken from Tinana's story...

1.  Identify and understand the risks that can impact your property.

What can you learn from historical events? Has your area been previously impacted by flood, fire, or significant weather events?

2.  Consider the design, construction and maintenance of your property and look at ways in which damage may be minimised or avoided.

Can the use of certain building materials reduce the risk of damage to your building? Have you implemented a regular property maintenance program to ensure your property is in good repair? Can you clear the surrounding area of potential hazards by reducing fire fuel risks and ensuring drains and roof gutters are clear of debris and that roofs and awnings are secure and in good condition? Are essential data records saved and stored off-site?

3.  Implement an emergency response plan and how you will communicate that to your team

A clear plan ensures a streamlined, methodical approach to managing your risk. Your teams must know who is in charge and understand clearly the role they will play in responding to a situation.

Always continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of the local emergency services to avoid putting your people in unnecessary danger.

Image taken during the 2013 floods

Often, the disruption to normal activities and the inability to utilise the church building during the cleanup and repair process impacts a church's ability to be effective in their community. Understanding your risks, taking care of your property and having a clear emergency response plan goes a long way to reducing the potential impact a significant weather event may have on your church community. Tinana Christian Church understood the potential risk and put in place necessary evasive action. 

For more information on how to plan for and recover from a significant weather event, please refer to our exclusive ACS Members Insurance Risk Guide Portal, our recent article "Weathering The Storm", or speak with our friendly team of insurance and risk management experts.

Thank you to Ps Kerry and and Janita Shipp for sharing your story with us. 

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website reflect some of the commercial aspects and potential risks/obligations for your Church, School or Organisation. The information is given as a guide only and does not represent a definitive list or legal view in any way shape or form. You are advised to seek your own professional advice on all your individual needs. ACS Financial Pty Ltd (ACN 062 448 122) (AFSL 247388).

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