Key Point: Because of the continuing trend of lawsuits against churches, every church needs to develop a common sense safety plan to mitigate loss of property, injuries, and loss of life.
On a sunny afternoon in Florida, the sounds of children’s laughter could be heard in the church parking lot as they jumped in a rented bounce house. However, those sounds quickly turned to screams as an unexpected gust of wind picked up the bounce house, with children in it, and flung it against a light pole, coming within just a few feet of the lines carrying electricity. Thankfully, the children got away with only minor bumps and bruises. The church, however, learned a hard lesson that day: “what you don’t know about can hurt you.”
It is time to protect your church
Across the nation and the world, churches and other Christian based organizations have faced lawsuits, suffered injuries, and experienced loss of life and property due to smoke emergencies, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, violence, and false alarm panic. To protect congregations and staff, efforts need to be made to prepare the church to adequately respond to situations and prevent loss whenever possible.
Whose responsibility is it?
According to 2 Timothy 4:2, pastors are called to, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
In looking at the responsibility God has given pastors for their churches, the verse states to “be ready in season and out of season.” Have you considered what that means for you and your church?
Are you prepared for emergency situations?
Could you safely evacuate in case of an emergency?
Do you know how to document accidents to help protect the church from legal action?
As a pastor or church leader, the safety and wellbeing of your parishioners falls on you. While it is impossible to foresee the future and what obstacles you will face as the shepherd of your congregation, proper planning and preparation in case of an emergency situation can alleviate many long-lasting headaches and prevent possible litigation.
Every church must have an emergency plan
Every church is unique and faces different threats and challenges. There are many natural and manmade hazards for which you can prepare, including weather related events, earthquakes, suspicious packages, accidents, and fire and smoke emergencies. A well-developed emergency plan is a proactive approach to church safety that can help keep parishioners safe and the church more resilient and protected.
What is an Emergency Operations Plan and why is it important?
An Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) is a plan for preparing for, responding to, and recovering from various hazards, accidents, and incidents. The information should include actions that can be taken before, during, and following an incident to mitigate the loss of property, injuries, or loss of life, and it outlines proper reporting procedures for incidents. A comprehensive EOP shows responsibility from leadership and is imperative when running a church, as anytime people gather in a location, there is an opportunity for an emergency to occur, leaving the church vulnerable.
Step 1 - Hazard identification
It is imperative, when planning for your church, to understand the most likely hazards and risks you face. Take some time to assess such areas as your church’s activities, buildings, climate, and other potential trouble areas. By understanding these, you can make smart decisions about how to protect parishioners and staff, avoid litigation, and manage incidents more successfully.
Step 2 - Evacuation planning guidance
No matter what types of hazards you have decided to address, one thing is certain - you must have an evacuation plan. Being able to safely evacuate your church without panic is the number one safety priority that you should have as a leader. Even a faulty smoke alarm or fake bomb threat called in can lead to serious bodily injury (and litigation). If people panic, they become a danger to themselves and others while trying to exit the building. Take the time to think through and plan the routes your parishioners should take if such an event occurs.
Step 3 - Create Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)
The basic plan should provide an overview of church operations before, during, and after an incident. It will address the actions the church will take regardless of the type of threat or hazard.
Consider areas such as:
Make sure that your church reviews and updates the plan annually to ensure the most accurate information.
Don’t fail to plan
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Many church leaders will never take the time to plan for emergencies because they believe that they are unlikely to occur. However, should an emergency occur and the church is not prepared, it can make a bad situation even worse. While we all hope and pray that your church never has to face an emergency, one way to ensure the safety of your church and parishioners is to prepare for one. Pastors and church leaders should definitely consider taking the time to develop a church Emergency Operations Plan and socialize the plan to other church leaders, staff, and volunteers.
Free Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)
Our vision at StartCHURCH is to equip churches and ministries to have the tools they need to protect what God has given them to lead. With the new StartCHURCH Emergency Operations Plan, you are able to work through preparing your church to weather and withstand whatever emergency comes. And for a limited time, this product is FREE to our blog subscribers. To get your free EOP, please CLICK HERE.