Summer is a time to enjoy longer days and warmer temperatures. While this summer weather is perfect for family vacations and picnics in the park, it’s also a recipe for life-threatening storms that can cause serious damage to our churches and schools. Now is the time to prepare for the summer storm season.The threats you face from a change in weather patterns depend on where you live. Hurricanes are common in the southeast portion of the United States, while severe thunderstorms and tornados are common in the South and Midwest.
HurricanesThe Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through November 30 each year. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active—and the fifth costliest—on record. Early predictions indicate that the 2021 season will be above average as well. In addition to wind damage, it is common for hurricanes to also bring significant water damage from flooding and storm surge.
So how can you prepare your church or school for a hurricane?
Wind damage is almost always present in a hurricane or tropical storm, so it is important to reduce debris that can become projectiles. Secure loose items that are outside, and trim trees on your property to remove any dead branches that could be blown down. Ensure gutters and storm drains are securely attached as well.
Covering windows with heavy plywood will help prevent broken windows and water damage from the rain. Plywood and screws are some of the first things to disappear from hardware stores before a storm, so have boards precut and labeled in advance to ensure you have what you need. You may also want to plan ahead and line up individuals who are willing and able to cover the church windows as the storm approaches.
If your church or school is in a flood-prone area, you may consider additional steps to minimize water damage. Use sandbags to slow the advance of water toward your building, and check drainage systems to clear any obstructions. If there is expensive equipment on the lower levels of the building, consider moving it to an upper floor. You may also want to move vehicles to a safe location.
Hurricanes offer plenty of advance warning, but you still need to be prepared. For additional information, consult ARM’s hurricane information packet.
Severe Thunderstorms and TornadosMost people living in the South or Midwest have encountered severe thunderstorms. Unlike hurricanes, severe thunderstorms and tornados can come without warning, although they only occur in certain conditions—so knowing what to look for is critical.
During the late spring and summer months, thunderstorms can pop up at any time, and they can often spawn into tornados. This happens when warm, moist air near the ground mixes with cooler, dry air above. This creates an updraft that can trigger the rotation of air, which can produce wind speeds between 100 and 300 miles per hour.
Most cellular carriers provide emergency alerts for storms in your geographic area, but having a battery-operated weather alert radio at your church can also provide advance warning for severe storms. While you don’t know when a tornado will pop up, there are still some things you can do to prepare for severe thunderstorms.
As with a hurricane, trimming dead tree limbs and securing outdoor equipment is critical. You’ll also want to perform generator maintenance and check emergency lighting in case of power outages at the church. If a severe storm hits your church while it is occupied, it is essential to have enough first aid supplies to respond to injuries commonly caused by flying debris or structure failure, injuries such as lacerations, broken bones, or impalements.
It’s also important to have a plan for what to do if a severe storm should pop up during a church service. Identify safe places for members to go during a severe storm, and clearly mark these as safety zones. As part of your plan, determine how to get children, the elderly, and other vulnerable members to the designated safety zones. Another consideration is how to reunite members with their children after a storm has passed.
Regularly practice your plan with your members so they know where to go and what to do during and after a storm.
Staying Safe in Severe StormsIt’s easy to become desensitized to severe storms and overlook the simple steps we can take to protect our churches and schools from some of the devastating effects these storms can have on our ministries. Take the time now to create a safety plan for your church or school and prepare your property for potential storms. It is an investment worth making.
Visit our Safety Sabbath page for more information on emergency planning, including drill guides to practice with your members.
Additional ResourcesHow to Prepare for Hurricanes and Tropical Storms webinar
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