Emergency preparedness for churches

Does your church have an emergency plan?

What will you do when an emergency hits your parish?

The tornadoes that hit my home state of Alabama yesterday got me thinking about these questions. Are churches prepared for emergencies? If the churches I’m familiar with are any example, most churches have no plans at all.

Given events in recent history that have affected communities around the country and the world, the local church should be prepared to handle emergency situations. A natural disaster or other emergency could affect the parish church or the town where the church is located. Every church should have a plan to assist its members and the residents of its community in the event of a church or community emergency.

Here are a few questions to help you brainstorm about emergency preparedness.

How will you know if your parishioners are safe?

If a tornado strikes your community, how will you account for everyone? Do you have phone numbers and addresses for your members? What about the same info for frequent (or even occasional) visitors? Do you have a phone tree that could be used to check up on folks? Can parishioners call in to the church to let someone know their status?

What will you do if an emergency occurs during your worship service or other event?

If a deranged man walks into your building with a gun and starts shooting people, what is your security plan? Do you have security guards? If not, who in the church is trained in defensive tactics? What is your emergency evacuation plan and who will direct people during the evacuation? How will you alert police and other emergency services about what is happening?

What will your church do to support members of the congregation who are affected by the emergency?

If a hurricane hits your town and some of your parishioners lose their homes, how will you assist your church members? Do you have a food pantry or clothing closet? Are you able to take parishioners into other members’ homes? Are funds available to put members up in hotels? Do you have rooms in your church building in which folks could be temporarily housed? Are you connected with other organizations that could help–such as a ministerial association, church network, community food bank, etc.?

How will your church respond to the needs of those in your community who are affected by the emergency?

If your town is flooded, what will you do for those in your community who need assistance? Do you know who in your congregation owns boats and might be able to rescue others in town? Can you open your church kitchen to serve meals for those who are displaced from their homes? Can your Sunday school rooms be turned into temporary housing? Is your church building available to be used as a makeshift aid station?

Take action.

Every parish should consider the implications of an emergency on its ministry and functions. There are theological considerations in how we approach this topic. If we are truly the body of Christ, we will respond with generosity and kindness to those in our family who are in need. And we will reach out to those around us who are hurting. We will not simply pray that they may be clothed or fed; instead, we will give of our abundance to the needy.

Start this week by drafting a security plan for your congregation. Identify a security head. Even if yours is a tiny one-room church building in a rural area, find someone who takes the matter of security seriously. Help him put together a common sense plan that protects lives in the event of a security emergency.

Next week, continue your preparedness by drafting a congregational response plan that includes the following: accounting for the whereabouts and safety of your church members; phone and address rosters for contacting church members; assess the need and feasibility for maintaining emergency stores of food, clothing, blankets, and other emergency essentials.

Emergency preparedness and response is an ongoing concern that will need to be addressed occasionally in order to maintain a workable and effective plan. This is an area of pastoral ministry that can bring glory to the Lord as the church works to show compassion and charity to those within and without the body of Christ.

What is your parish doing to address emergency preparedness? Leave a comment to share your ideas with others!

 

6 Comments

  1. Dawn Golden

    We had a couple tornados in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area a few days ago. Nothing like what hit the south, but the potential is still there. Thanks for the thought provoking questions. I will make copies of this and give it to the pastor and our Sunday School director. We are fairly new there and I have no clue where we would go if bad weather struck. Thanks for caring. ~

  2. Dawn, I'm glad you found this useful. I hope it will be helpful to your church leaders as they consider how to prepare for tornadoes and other such events. It's also a good idea to develop a family plan for emergencies, and I'm sure you're already thinking about that. I hope y'all are doing well. (And, yes, it's great to be home from Afghanistan!)

  3. Randy Smith

    Very good points.  Having survived a direct hit by a CAT5 (CAT4 when it hit my town) hurricane these are all good things to think about.  Honestly, it came down to individual preparedness.  Enough people were individually prepared to pick up the slack for those were were ill prepared or were not capable due to age, handicap, etc. to meet their basic needs: food, water, shelter.  We were also able to assist the church through repairs and clean up of the church buildings after everyone else was safe and secure.  Fortunately the old sanctuary was almost pristine the heavy ceramic roof tiles were much better of than most of our plastic roof tiles (my house included) and the heavy stain glass and brick walls were untouched.  One of the parrish buildings was crushed however by a fallen tree and every glass panel window was shattered.  Difficult to understand exactly what its like till it happens to you.r nr nOne of the most significant moments in my like was sitting high on a ridge looking down and collapsed buildings, roofless houses, and open lots where there used to be a grove of trees and realizing that security comes only in the knowledge of God's love for us, our atonement through Christ Jesus, and our the eternal assured dwellings that await us in Heaven. 

  4. Randy, I agree with you that there is a great responsibility on the individual to prepare for emergency situations. The recent natural disasters and other events around the world should give us all reason to think about how we'd handle such a matter.r nr nAlong with our individual preparedness, if our churches are prepared, we can minister to others in their time of need. Working together, we can bring honor to the Lord through acts of compassion for those around us.r nr nYour realization that we are all held in the hands of God and that there is no security outside of him is something that every person on earth should understand. When calamity strikes, from whence will we draw strength? Everything we have and control can be destroyed in an instant, but the Lord's faithfulness endures forever.

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