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In an article “Low Walls for High Places,” on the website Enrichment Journal, author Michael Jackson reminds churches of the need to be prepared before disasters strike.

“The unexpected has a way of happening at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected places,” writes Jackson. “Since only .001 percent of all deaths occur in church, we can easily be lulled into thinking that such things could never happen to us. And yet the sad truth is, such things can and do happen to us. Churches are particularly vulnerable.” Taking steps to prevent accidents and disasters can save lives and reduce the chance of injuries. The article notes that:

  • one church in 50 had been sued the previous year
  • 40 percent of churches had filed an insurance claim during that same period
  • 52 percent of churches reported that an accident requiring medical attention had occurred at a church program within the previous 3 years

Jackson has a number of tips to help churches minimize risks and protect the safety of church members and guests. Tips include:

Appointing someone to take charge in case of an emergency or disaster. This person makes sure 911 is called and knows who and where the doctors, nurses and other supportive persons are in the congregation should they be required.

Develop a disaster preparedness plan. Churches need to be ready to respond to all kinds of disasters, including floods, fires, shootings, storms or medical emergencies. Jackson advises that a committee be appointed to develop the plan and oversee its implementation. Then the committee should meet regularly to review it and make updates.

Organize an annual fire drill. “We do this during Sunday School,” notes Jackson. “The congregation is told in advance about the drill…Special attention is given to the nursery and toddler areas.”

Develop a plan for evacuation and educate the congregation about it. Jackson suggests including an evacuation map in each room showing people how to safely exit the building in case of an emergency.

Keep track of your keys. Jackson notes that many churches have no idea who has keys to their facilities. “Locks need to be rekeyed periodically,” says Jackson. “Every key should be numbered and a record kept of who has which key with what number. To add accountability, the board should approve any and all key applications.”

Keep a well-supplied first aid kit. Check its contents regularly. Any church-sponsored activity should include adult supervisors with first aid training.

Think about who is doing the driving. “Some of the worst motor vehicle accidents in the history of the United States have involved church vans or buses,” explains Jackson. He advises each church to have a transportation policy, covering such things as vehicle selection, screening and training drivers, and vehicle safety and maintenance.

Do a safety inventory of your facility. Jackson recommends a monthly safety survey of the premises, which takes into account specific risks that are associated with people, property, and liability including, but not limited to:

  • Playgrounds
  • Kitchens
  • Heating systems
  • Sidewalks/landscaping
  • Financial practices
  • Exits and lighting
  • Rental policies

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