Hurricane Irma – Be Prepared

By Osama Mourad

Atlanta masjids open their doors for Hurricane Irma evacuees, which is great, but while we are spending the effort to provide relief to those who are evacuating we can get prepared for what is coming in the future after Irma. The Hurricane may change its path and people could become safe before we can spend any effort, the hurricane may change its path and put the places we are setting up as shelters in danger, and we may need to seek shelters ourselves. But we still can get the benefits for the future.

The benefits of preparation for the future can be:

  • Educating the Muslim community on how Muslims should act in such scenarios. You will have people coming to your masjid and you don’t know what their religion or political opinion is, and you serve them regardless.
  • A team building opportunity for all volunteers from different masjids and organizations, it is not important who issues the press release, who sees their name more in the news posts, who receives more phone calls and attention. It is all about working as a team with one mission, serving people for the sake of Allah.
  • As a team, they will learn that people and organizations are there with different capabilities, some organizations are created for a certain purpose, hiring or training people with certain education, skills and capacity, see who is the best person or organization for the task and let them lead it.
  • Most masjids are not prepared with medical and first aid kits, some with really old bathrooms, bad air conditioners. It is an opportunity to list all those places and route the support to get them prepared for the future at least at a minimum level. Again, think about the other masjid as a shelter for someone who is really dispirited to find a place, helping the other masjid is exactly as directly helping that person.
  • Islamophobic people are also evacuating and finding your name as a shelter will not force them to love you and forgot about their phobias, they may come to your masjid to prove to themselves and others that you are not serving people, you are just making a show to hide what you really are. The best response to that is to show them how good you really are, this is a great benefit.
  • Others will come seeking shelter, but they don’t feel comfortable sleeping in a masjid with Muslims they don’t know anything about you other than what they heard from the media, and those can be the majority. Remember that they also left behind their home, schools and business, lost connection to family and friends. Working with local friends from other religions to come and visit those who need to see someone familiar to them is a benefit to build good relations with non-Muslims for a good cause.
  • Giving opportunities to small groups or organizations to take part, train their teams, find couching is a win-win situation, they can take some load from your team, and you can depend on them in the future.
  • People evacuating may also include those with specific health conditions, your masjid may not be able to handle their condition even with trained volunteers. A quick survey before you accommodate them in your masjid can help, remember you are seeking their safety, not adding them as a number to your list. Therefore, beside the name of each masjid, we should also put how far the nearest hospital is, to be used by the unified call center if available.
  • You may not be able to accommodate everyone, not turning back anyone is important, but sometimes impossible. Don’t expect that everyone will understand why you can’t accommodate them. But again, working with other groups with different backgrounds, you can find another shelter that can host them. Educating your group about differences in this country is important regardless whether you agree with them or not.
  • Some evacuees have special needs, physical ones which are easier to recognize, you need to be prepared for them by making sure your masjid is handicap equipped. Others may need quite areas, dimmer lights, less crowds, bigger space or something else. The benefit here is by preparing a list of which masjids can host which special need, or who can help you in different situations. Remember they have already experienced a difficult time before they came to your masjid to rest, the first moment you will see their face they may already be overloaded with more than they can usually handle.
  • Train your youth and adults to follow the emergency call is a big benefit, they may need to leave and cancel something they really want and waiting for just to be loyal to what they believe is more important. Helping people.
  • Encourage the community to join your efforts in the future, take photos and videos now to use in the future, before and after pictures, numbers and graphs showing your target and your actual achievement. Display how much in donations were collected and distributed. People like to see positive things happening especially during disasters and hard times, be that person lightening a candle in the dark, and you will be the first person to feel the benefits in your heart.

I tried not to use scouting terms to make it accessible for non-scouts as well, but another benefit, is this post, I hope it is a good starting point for something useful, commenting and sending feedback will be needed in the future even if by spelling and grammar checks. So be prepared!


About Osama Mourad: Started scouting as a Cub Scout at The Holy Family School in Egypt in the 5th grade, stayed in scouting until he became the Assistant Crew Leader. Now, the father of 2 Cub Scouts, he is a Cubmaster for Pack 12 and a Committee Member with Troop 12.