It’s become commonplace in schools across the country. Kids today are taught how to respond to threats of violence, intruders, and even an active shooter. They seem well prepared to respond to an emergency while at school—but what about while at your church?
Does your church have an emergency action plan so your volunteers and children know how to respond to those situations that we think will “never happen at our church?” Procedures for emergency response have now become the baseline for safety standards.
Here are four things you need to consider for emergency management:
- Prevention. Start the process by discussing what can be done to reduce or eliminate risk to life and property in an emergency situation. Have you outlined procedures that may help prevent risk? These might include using a single entrance point for building access; name badges for all authorized volunteers and staff; pairing two adults to work with kids; and policies for discipline and infectious disease control. Try to reduce the risk before it happens.
- Preparedness. Remember those fire drills when you were a kid? The reality today is that kids have drills to prepare themselves for an active shooter in the building. Focus on the process of planning before you begin to implement the plans. Make sure your staff know the exit routes and processes for fire, intruders, and weather-related concerns.
- Response. Outline the steps needed when responding to an emergency. A fire would require evacuation but other situations may need a different response. Also, consider how you’ll handle communications during a crisis so parents and staff know who to contact for information. Designate a “command central”.
- Recovery. This step involves the things you’ll do to restore the environment after a crisis. Will counseling be needed for survivors? Will a temporary meeting space be assigned until building damage can be restored? What will you do differently the next time? These are the type of questions you’ll work through to make sure things resolve as quickly as possible.
Several government websites offer resources, tips, and training. Here are a few to get you started:
Department of Homeland Security
Emergency Preparedness Guidance from the DHS
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Shepherd’s Watch is releasing a new resource this summer to help you protect your congregation with a compassionate approach to church safety and security. Safe and Secure Church is a video-based training that you can use to make sure your church is a safe place for kids this fall!
[We love to provide tips to keep your ministry safe. However, you may also want to consult your local legal advisors to get their perspective on this topic.]