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Preparing for Pandemic Flu: A Minneapolis Congregation's First Steps

By Bill Weir

In 2006, the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis created a standing committee on emergency preparedness, which I chair. The committee believes that the principal threat for which most people are not prepared is a pandemic influenza outbreak, commonly called “bird flu” or “avian influenza.” Because of this concern, the task force has two main goals: 1) to protect the people in our First Unitarian Society community from the risk of bird flu, and 2) to explore ways to serve our members in the event of a bird flu pandemic. 

What is the threat? If pandemic flu develops, the Minnesota Department of Health projection in a worst-case scenario is that 1.25 million Minnesotans could become ill, with 20,000 deaths (Hull, 2006). The number of sick would significantly overwhelm the healthcare system. In light of that, our key concern is how to best help our congregation of people with and without disabilities become adequately prepared, and to encourage preparedness within our denomination. Among the steps we’ve taken toward that end are the following:

It would take much more space to share the many more details on how congregations and their members with and without disabilities can prepare for and respond to a possible pandemic. We’d invite people to visit the resources posted on our Bird Flu E-mail Discussion List and to consider joining the discussion ( We all hope a severe pandemic never comes, but expert scientists, especially epidemiologists, are concerned that it may come soon and may be devastating, especially to those who fail to prepare.


Hull, Harry. (2006). Avian flu is coming! Minnesota Medicine, 89. Retrieved 5/29/07 from

Bill Weir is a member of First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis and chair of its Committee on Emergency Preparedness. He is a retired minister with a Master’s in Healthcare Administration. He may be reached at


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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota ( Citation: Moseley, C., Salmi, P., Johnstone, C. & Gaylord, V. (Eds.). (Spring/Summer 2007). Impact: Feature Issue on Disaster Preparedness and People with Disabilities, 20(1). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].

The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at

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