In preparation for Hurricane Irene’s expected arrival this weekend, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is taking several steps to make sure Presbyterians are informed and ready.

“We’re taking it very seriously, and we’re hoping that our congregations take it seriously as well,” said Randy Ackley, coordinator of PDA.

The Rev. John Robinson, PDA’s associate for national disaster response, sent emails to about 25 presbyteries south of Delaware asking them to share their disaster plans. Many have designated a call-in number for congregations to use to report any damage. The Presbytery of Eastern Virginia has temporarily moved its offices to Boston to get out of Irene’s path.

“We work with presbyteries to support them in their response,” Robinson said.

When adding the 25 presbyteries to the 17 who were already invited to a long-term recovery training session for this spring’s storms, about one-fourth of the PC(USA)’s 173 presbyteries have been affected by natural disasters this year.

“This is going to be a record-breaking year,” Robinson said.

PDA has also pre-positioned National Response Teams around potential impact areas. This is a pretty new process, Robinson said. Because responders have an idea of where Irene will go, they are able to get in to those areas before storm damage blocks entry.

PDA has also been granted a seat at a national table preparing to respond to Irene.

Along with other response groups, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as it responds to Irene. Harvey Howell, a longtime member of PDA’s National Response Team, will represent VOAD at FEMA’s national offices.

Although hurricanes are unpredictable by nature, it’s pretty clear that Irene will not go out to sea, Robinson said. He lives in northern Virginia and is thinking about whether he will need to use his generator or stock up on food. He hopes Presbyterians in the hurricane’s path will take the same kind of precautions.

“I’m praying that people are taking seriously our advice to evacuate,” he said.

To find out more about PDA’s preparation for and response to Hurricane Irene, click here.