On a national level, fires at religious and funeral properties occur an average of 34 times each week.[i] In fact, since 2015, Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) has received 219 property fire claims. The safety of our most sacred spaces should not be taken for granted. This is one of the reasons we are encouraging churches to perform a fire drill this year for Safety Sabbath, March 25.In 2016, ARM launched Safety Sabbath to give congregations the opportunity to rehearse evacuation drills in real time. ARM offers a wide variety of safety resources and educational opportunities for Seventh-day Adventist ministries. However, we also understand that awareness is only part of the equation. Practice is what can determine whether a congregation efficiently finds safety amid the chaos of fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and active shooter emergencies.
The work we do at ARM is much more than a service; it is a ministry, and we meet all our tasks, especially the losses, with prayerfulness. However, in the meantime, we seek to make sure your ministry is prepared if the worst is to occur.
This year, Safety Sabbath is dedicated to fire drills and will be held on March 25, 2023. ARM has incorporated recent developments in fire drill safety into our existing resources. These developments include increased attention to situational awareness, strategies for limiting the spread of fire, and additional methods for evaluation. Here’s a look at what we offer and why your church should be involved:
Safety Sabbath 2023
According to the National Fire Incident Reporting System, 93 percent of all fire-related deaths occur once the fire has progressed beyond the early stages.[ii] This emphasizes the importance of effective evacuation plans. Emergencies are overwhelming events, and regular practice can mean the difference between life and death. Through Safety Sabbath, ARM provides each congregation with the latest expert information, optimizing resources for maximum impact and giving attention to actionability and continued development.
It is important for deacons, elders, and Sabbath School teachers to know the location of fire exits, evacuation routes, and how to test if door handles are safe to touch. Fire safety experts also recommend increased situational awareness. Our Safety Sabbath resources include steps your congregation can take to practice better situational awareness.
In the last decade, safety education outlets launched initiatives encouraging people to close doors and windows in order to delay the spread of fire. Fire Safety Research Institute’s vice president and executive director, Steve Kerber, advises, “With the doors and windows closed, the fire won’t have oxygen to burn and it’s going to stay right there.”[iii] This awareness led our risk managers to see how churches could benefit from this simple step, encouraging crisis response teams to plan that doors and windows be closed behind people during egress. Our drill instructions will feature information on how your congregation can be better prepared.
Safety drills are important because practice makes perfect. Church members who practice safety drills are better equipped to perform well when the real thing happens. But evaluating your congregation’s performance in a more rigorous way can lead to improvements in the planning and execution of safety drills. ARM’s new fire drill resources include more evaluation tools to allow churches to track their progress in a measurable way.
Participate in Safety Sabbath
The first and most crucial step in participating in Safety Sabbath is making sure your church is registered on safetysabbath.org. Registered congregations receive regular updates and resources for planning their Safety Sabbath drill. They also receive promotional materials, including videos and graphics to inform church members about Safety Sabbath.
Next, share Safety Sabbath information with church leadership, describing how participation benefits the congregation. This will give the church board adequate time to decide, plan, and put it on the calendar. Encourage your church pastor and safety officer to register as well.
Safety Sabbath is held on the fourth Sabbath of every March, so it is important to plan this ahead of time with your safety officer. This will also give you time to appoint a crisis response team in coordination with your church board.
ARM believes risk management is a ministry and Christ is with us at all times, especially in times of tragedy and loss. We also understand that Christ came for us to have life and have it more abundantly. That is why emergency preparedness is a powerful way to ensure your congregants and prospective congregants are safe.
[i] NFPA report - U.S. Structure Fires in Religious and Funeral Properties. (n.d.). https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Data-research-and-tools/Building-and-Life-Safety/Religious-and-funeral-properties
[ii] Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association. (2022, June 22). Fire Facts | Fire Safety Facts & Statistics | Fire Life Safety. Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association. https://femalifesafety.org/education/fire-facts/
[iii] Close Before You Doze | UL’s FSRI – Fire Safety Research Institute. (n.d.). https://fsri.org/programs/close-before-you-doze