It’s easy to avoid thinking about unexpected tragedies like a fire, an active shooter, or even a tornado. We believe it will not happen to us. However, the safest way to survive an unexpected event is to learn what to expect and prepare. Review scenarios and practice how to respond several times a year, so they are not so surprising. Every emergency drill should be planned, scheduled, reviewed, analyzed, and well communicated.When you plan a drill, create a checklist to keep track of all the essential elements. Following the exercise, identify problems and weaknesses. Collect feedback from those who participated and assisted with the drill. Keep in mind that things don’t always go as planned. The more you prepare and practice, the better the outcome.
Fire drills are the most common drills. Requirements are often regulated by local state, county or province government organizations. A building’s occupancy determines the frequency of fire drills conducted.
Fire Drill—Opening Your Exits
Things to THINK ABOUT:
Does your building have EXIT signs with open, unobstructed routes?
Do you have an emergency exit diagram posted on the walls?
Do you have an evacuation plan that meets your building and occupants’ specific needs?
Do you have a crisis response team?
Do you have a meeting location in case you need to evacuate the building?
Have you discussed these needs with your church leadership?
Are your Sabbath School teachers familiar with the plan? Have they talked to the kids about it?
The more you review and practice the plan, the more quickly you will respond to the unknown.
Download the free Fire Drill Guide from ARM and learn how to conduct a fire drill.
Active Shooter Drill—Act Instead of ReactOne of the most significant issues with an active shooter situation is that our first instinct may be to deny that it is happening due to panic or shock. When in denial, we fail to react in a way most effective for preventing loss and staying safe. Holding an active shooter drill educates your church members on how to respond proactively instead of being paralyzed by fear and denial. They can then respond in a way most likely to prevent loss and to protect others.
Action instead of reaction can save lives. To be able to act in an unexpected situation, you need to practice your plan.
What are the essential things to KNOW and share when educating your constituents?
RESPOND IMMEDIATELY: Accept it is happening and RUN. Visualize possible escape routes as you move toward exits. Evacuation is your best chance of survival. A moving target is more difficult to reach. Move as quickly as you can, leaving your personal belongings behind. Your life is more important than material things.
HIDE: If running is not possible, lockdown and barricade doors with heavy furniture or other items. Turn off the lights and see if there is a way out through the windows. If a window escape is not possible (too high, non-opening, or too small) you will need to use another option. Stay hidden and locate items in the room to throw at the shooter if they should come in. Throwing objects at the shooter when they walk in the room will delay his/her response time and may allow you to run away and alert others as well.
INFORM the police, call 911, and ALERT others through an AV system or text message. The more information you provide to the police or your peers, they can inform and protect those still in surrounding areas. Be clear and detailed when sharing information with law enforcement such as “the shooter was coming from the cafeteria towards the library.” Also, make sure to share any identifying information such as appearance and clothes to help the police better identify the shooter.
COUNTER if there is no other option and you find yourself face to face with the shooter. In a church or classroom, or any location where a few adults are hiding and barricading in a room with no way out, countering could be the best solution. Consider – throwing items at the shooter and if possible, swarm and subdue them.
Remain CALM; keeping a clear head in a moment of crisis can better protect you and others from alerting the shooter of your presence. When first responders arrive on-site, keep your hands visible at all times and follow all instructions given.
“Most importantly, practice the plan. A good plan is useless if no one knows the plan.”
For more on active shooter drills, visit ARM’s church safety page.
“Tornadoes are nature’s most violent storm, with winds that can reach over 200 miles per hour and with paths of destruction of more than one mile wide and 50 miles long.” —FEMA.gov
Tornado Drill – Watching the Warnings
Do you know the difference between a tornado watch and tornado warning? Knowing the difference is critical and can alert you to how you should react. A tornado watch means that conditions are right for the formation of a tornado within the area or region under a tornado watch. When a tornado watch is active in your area, you'll want to be ready to seek shelter should a tornado develop.
A tornado warning means that a funnel cloud was sighted or that weather radar detected the possible formation of a tornado. A tornado warning means you need to ACT NOW and SEEK SHELTER immediately. When you hear this warning, there is an imminent danger to property and the potential for serious injury and loss of life.
When preparing a tornado drill:
- Learn what your local community uses for a tornado warning system. You can easily find this out by calling city hall or the city's emergency management department. Many municipalities use an audible warning via an outdoor siren.
- Identify the safest place to take the constituents/congregation for shelter. such as a basement or storm cellar. If none exist in the church, choose an interior room without windows.
After the area is identified and plans approved, work on the planning checklist, and share the date of your tornado drill with your church. Practice the plan and be ready for when the time comes.
For more information on Tornado Drills, click here.