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Planning for a Natural Disaster While Building Community

Uno with a life preserver

When St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wake Forest, North Carolina heard that they were in the path of Hurricane Florence in September 2018, they acted quickly to implement a plan.

Interior of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wake Forest, North Carolina

St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Wake Forest, North Carolina

“We realized that the hurricane was coming here, which presents a number of problems,”  Mary Allison – the first communications director of the parish shared. 

“Over 800 of our registered parishioners are over the age of 70, and many of those are homebound. Along with our building still standing, reaching these parishioners was our biggest concern.”

One of the parish’s priests is a former firefighter and search-and-rescue team member, so he had a lot of valuable insight regarding the practical ways that first responders handle natural disasters.

“He knew that we needed to have a way to contact our most vulnerable members,” Allison said.

Their original plan was to use Facebook to communicate, but with just 3,000 Facebook followers compared to over 14,000 registered parishioners – not to mention the average organic Facebook “reach” rate of 7% – they needed a different solution.

“We realized we could text the families in the parish, and using Flocknote, we could call the homebound and elderly members that do not always have their cell phones turned on,” Allison said “Being able to use voice calls was incredible because those 800 members were able to get the message.”

Any time they needed to update parishioners, the parish sent a note via text and voice call. They communicated church closures and other pertinent information by sending around 12 notes during the course of the hurricane. 

“I wanted to make sure I was only sending out necessary messages,” Allison recalled. “If you inundate members, you only frustrate them.”

The reaction from parishioners was overwhelmingly positive. 

“We’ve had multiple people come in or call and say they really appreciated us keeping in contact with them. They knew all day, every day, exactly what was going on. We now have more people interacting and responding to our notes on Flocknote.”

Today, the parish uses Flocknote to communicate with nearly 50 different groups in their network.

“We’re incredibly fortunate that the hurricane veered, but it really sparked this feeling of community, even though there are 14,000 of us. Flocknote opened this door that previously was shut, & we were able to connect with people during a natural disaster.”

St. Catherine's exterior

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