Published March 29, 2007
DULUTH ó Does your church have an action plan in case of an emergency?
Potential emergencies are no respecter of churches. Large churches are almost certain to encounter crisis situations from time to time, but smaller churches are not exempt from experiencing urgent predicaments that require immediate attention.
All too often it takes a tragedy to get churches to develop a plan of action to handle medical emergencies, fires, severe weather alerts, bomb threats, disruptive behavior, and critical incidents. In fact, the present climate in our country calls for higher levels of emergency preparedness. In fact, Homeland Security is now giving our public schools guidelines for nuclear, biological, and chemical emergencies.
Attempt to get the assistance of a health care professional, if one is in attendance. If cardiopulmonary resuscitation is required, only those persons qualified in CPR should use it. Have a defibrillator available, if possible, as well as a fully-stocked first aid kit. Ushers or other designated persons should be equipped to direct whatever actions are necessary to handle medical emergencies.
Designate roles in case of fire
A designated person should call 911 and state the nature of the fire. The church fire alarm should be sounded. Ushers should be responsible for coordinating and directing the evacuation. Parents should plan to meet their children from the childrenís church or extended sessions in a designated area.
Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to save church property or return to the building until the fire department indicates that it is safe to do so. Ample fire extinguishers should be available and ushers should know where each of them is located.
An usher should approach him or her and ask them to leave in a non-threatening manner. Avoid physical confrontation and contact 911 if the disruptive behavior continues after the first request. While waiting for the police, attempt to move members of the congregation away from the individual or individuals creating a disturbance.
Other critical incidents
In the case of a severe weather alert, bomb threat, weapons found in the church, or some other critical situation there should be a planned protocol to follow that is known and understood by the ushers and other designated leaders in the church.
Even these sketchy suggestions may seem overwhelming to a small or medium size church. You may or may not have the expertise, manpower, resources, or time to devote to crisis management. However, you must realize that you cannot afford not to invest in preparing a plan.
Donít make the mistake of getting in denial. Be prepared to respond with proper protective and palliative action when a crisis occurs.
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