Is your ministry ready to evacuate or act appropriately in case of a fire, storm, active shooter, or earthquake? Do you know the procedures necessary to ensure an orderly and effective response? Are there people ready to take charge and lead your congregation to safety?Safety drills are practiced to prepare people for an emergency. They provide you with an opportunity not only to experience what is likely to happen in moments of confusion, stress, or panic, but also to help identify areas of improvement in such scenarios. Drills can also help build trust with your congregation and gain their confidence in your ability to respond to highly stressful situations.
In emergency situations, people will look to leaders for guidance. Being prepared and having the right procedures in place can preserve life and ensure safety. Because it can be nearly impossible to plan an evacuation as it happens, safety drills provide structure and order before an emergency.
On the fourth Sabbath in March, Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) invites local churches to participate in a safety drill as part of Safety Sabbath. But it doesn’t have to be Safety Sabbath to perform a safety drill at your church or school. The more often your church members participate in a drill, the more accurate the response can be. The more aware the participants are of processes and steps, the more efficient an evacuation will be.
Safety drills are essentially a practice run for the real thing. They are a great way to determine the reaction of the participants, measure how effectively people follow emergency instructions, and identify the length of time needed to ensure everyone is safe and accounted for.
On the Safety Sabbath website, you’ll find an extensive library of resources and articles dedicated to safety drills. Below is a summary of some of the safety drills available to perform at your church or school:
Fire DrillsDuring our school years, we were all familiar with the shrill of the fire alarm announcing a fire drill. We can remember the calm, firm tone of our teachers instructing us to line up and make our way toward the designated exits in an orderly fashion.
Fire drills are designed to alert people of the danger of fire and smoke and help them know how to safely exit the building. Fire drills allow us to ensure the exits are clearly marked and free from obstructions. During a fire drill, people should be moving calmly and efficiently.
Tornado or Storm DrillsTornado or storm drills are used to practice emergency procedures in the event of a tornado or heavy storm. During the storm drill, participants are instructed to gather in the lowest room of the building, one without windows, such as a basement or cellar. It is best to avoid large areas, such as an auditorium, cafeteria, or sanctuary. Elevators must also be avoided. Participants are instructed to get down on the floor and assume a “braced position” with arms covering their head and neck.
Active Shooter DrillAn active shooter drill will help protect people in the event of an armed intruder. It gives your congregation an opportunity to be aware of their environment and possible dangers, as well as identify the nearest exits throughout the building. The active shooter drill empowers participants with the “Run, Hide, or Fight” options, which experts recommend as the best survival tactics in the event of an active shooter.
Earthquake DrillEarthquake drills are used to prepare churches and schools in the event of an earthquake. Earthquakes occur without warning and can be so violent that people may not be able to run or crawl during them. Individuals are instructed to drop down (to avoid getting knocked over), duck under a structure, such as a desk or table, and hold on to a sturdy piece of furniture. They should also stay away from windows and glazing materials, such as glass, and avoid tall furniture that can topple over, such as bookcases. Once it’s safe, an evacuation plan can be followed.
Safety drills and preparedness are a crucial way for our church congregations to manage risks by knowing how to respond and verifying proper procedures are in place. To prevent further injury or damage, churches and schools need to regularly hold safety drills and reevaluate their safety procedures based on how the drill went.
Visit safetysabbath.org to learn more and to download resources that can help your church perform a safety drill soon. You can also sign up to receive information about Safety Sabbath next March.
- Franca, C. (2019, September). Turn the Unexpected into the Expected – One Drill at a Time. Adventist Risk Management, Inc. https://adventistrisk.org/en-us/safety-resources/solutions-newsletter/2019/september/turn-the-unexpected-into-the-expected-one-drill-at
- Bartlett, A. (2019, February). Preparing Your Church for Emergency Drills. Adventist Risk Management, Inc. https://adventistrisk.org/en-us/safety-resources/solutions-newsletter/2019/february/preparing-your-church-for-emergency-drills
- Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2021, October 21). Drop, Cover and Hold On: Join the Annual Great ShakeOut Drill. https://www.fema.gov/press-release/20211020/drop-cover-and-hold-join-annual-great-shakeout-drill
- Department of Homeland Security. Active Shooter: How to Respond. https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/active_shooter_booklet.pdf