Each year the NAD designates a sabbath as Safety Sabbath because just as individuals and families need to be prepared for possible emergencies, so do ministries. If your church or school doesn’t have an emergency response committee or hasn’t developed an emergency plan, now is the time to plan.
The thought of making a plan can be a daunting task. You may think that a quick Google search will provide you with the best emergency plan. However, it is critical that a well-constructed plan is customized for your ministry and location. The value is in the process.
Your church or school should consider two types of unforeseen occurrences: natural disasters and other emergencies. Natural disasters and other emergencies can come in various ways and at any given time. Whether an emergency happens at church or school, everyone should be prepared to handle it safely and effectively.
What are the risks for your organization?The best way to prepare a response is to have a dedicated emergency response team. The team will provide the leadership needed for planning as well as during an emergency. The goal for this team is to work together to promote safety and minimize the harm of an emergency.
The first task of an emergency response team is to assess their distinct area for the risk of emergencies. When conducting risk identification, it is important to examine the consequences and their impact on the organization.
- Lightning Strikes
- Winter Storms
- Extreme Heat
- Malicious attacks
- Medical emergencies
- Power outages
- Cyber breach
These are just a few examples of potential emergencies. Your location may have different or additional risks to consider.
For every risk identified, determine the severity and who or what it will affect should it take place. Evaluating findings helps prioritize and determine the assets at risk. However, don’t limit your analysis to the list above. Work through several scenarios, including the things you think “could never happen here.” In the development of emergency preparedness, consider all possible emergencies.
People are the most valued asset: Protect them. Potential injuries should be highlighted and prioritized to ensure that appropriate recovery takes place during and after an unforeseen event.
Physical assets: Deficiencies in buildings make them more susceptible to damage. Consider a seasonal maintenance program to keep buildings in good condition and up to code. This will limit the potential damage caused by an emergency. Self-inspection forms for schools and churches are available on our website. Learn more about School and Church Self-Inspection.
Write your evacuation and response plan. The plan should include any risks identified, the assets potentially affected, and the response. Also include a clear set of roles and responsibilities.
Training and practice are the most important pieces of emergency preparedness. It is critical to invest time in training those responsible for executing the plan. This ensures that your team is knowledgeable, confident, and prepared to face the toughest threats in ministry. Keep in mind that the primary goal of the plan is accessibility and efficiency. Clear and effective plans reduce panic, increase safety, and maintain business continuity.
Bring the plan to life by increasing practice drills in your school or church. Include as many service providers as possible to help facilitate these drills. This process is forever evolving, so regular reviews and updates strengthen the response. Don’t let lack of training or practice impair your ability to protect your assets.
The top priority in this step is the safety and wellbeing of others. Therefore, the restoration of buildings begins immediately after you’ve taken care of life-threatening situations.
Physical assets: Return to buildings only after it is deemed safe. Keeping an inventory of equipment and valuable property is essential. Insurance coverage is also a key part of your response plan. Before an emergency strikes, review and confirm that you are properly insured, and make necessary adjustments. Learn more here about the steps to take after a loss.
Emergency preparedness is never-ending. It involves planning, organizing, training, practicing drills, doing evaluations, and taking actionable steps to respond to risks that your ministry faces. We have a Christian duty to protect that which is entrusted to us. Risk management is the intentional effort to minimize the effect of risk, which is always present. Thus taking these steps makes us good stewards. Choosing to ignore and not take the appropriate steps is a choice that can lead to devastating consequences. Are you willing to take the risk?
ResourcesReadiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS)
Education Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)
Emergency Response Team Roles
Church Emergency Plan (ARM)
Responsibility to Prevent Further Damage After a Loss
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