Solar Eclipse 2017
Prepare your ministry for possible guests
On August 21, a solar eclipse passed across North America, allowing millions of people to view the spectacle. Many churches, campgrounds, and others within the 14-state “area of totality” were planning for hundreds – if not thousands – of guests.
During events like this one, your ministry may get unexpected guests, simply because it offers a space that looks inviting to travelers. Here are some safety tips to consider, based on the approach you wish to take.
If you host your own eclipse party or announce that guests are welcome to watch from your land, take steps to protect both your property and your guests.
- Clearly mark areas for each aspect of the event, so people know where they can and cannot go. Keep activities a safe distance away from moving vehicles, ponds, and other hazards. Most people will be looking up, not around.
- Provide restrooms. You could rent portable facilities or let people use the restrooms inside your buildings. If you allow guests inside, take reasonable steps to protect ministry employees and property. You can do this by allowing access only to the restroom part of the building, locking other doors, securing valuable items, and so on.
- Look for hazards. Walk around areas that will be open to visitors, both inside and outside. You’re looking for anything that could cause someone to trip, fall, or get hurt. Fix or carefully mark any conditions that could present a problem.
- Address issues. Be prepared to respond to challenges that could arise, such as parking confusion or heavy traffic. Medical emergencies are also possible, so it’s wise to prepare a response plan.
- Follow food safety guidelines if you make refreshments available. You know the basics: Keep hot foods hot; cold foods cold, and wash hands often. If charging for food, be aware that local health regulations may require a permit.
- Encourage eye safety. Provide information about the dangers of looking directly at the sun, before, during, and after a total eclipse.
- Alert officials. If you’re expecting a large group of people, let local fire and police departments know about it. This helps them prepare for any issues that could arise.
- Call your agent. It’s a little late for this now, but if you invite large numbers of visitors onto your property in the future, it’s good to ask a risk management expert about the best way to safeguard your ministry’s people and property. Talk to your insurance agent about the increased liability risk and pay careful attention to safety and security.
You may choose to allow eclipse viewers to come and go as they please. This is a reasonable approach. However, it still poses a danger to your property, guests, and any staff who will be on site during the event. Consider taking the following safety measures.
- Secure valuables. Decide if you will allow visitors inside your building to use the restroom, get a drink, or for any other reason. If so, take steps to secure any part of your building that will be off limits and protect the people and valuables in public-facing areas.
- Lock the building. If your building will be off-limits during the event, be sure to lock all entrances and clearly post signs communicating that guests will need to find another location for restrooms or other services. Remember to secure maintenance sheds and vehicles, too.
- Walk around. Stroll around the areas visitors would likely use. Mark any hazards you observe, so that people will know to stay clear of them.
- Mark off-limit areas. You may want to set up boundaries that encourage guests to use a certain area that is away from neighboring properties, roads, parking lots, or ponds.
Your ministry may opt to make your property off-limits to travelers while the eclipse is occurring. This eliminates most issues related to safety and security. If you do this, you must have a way to clearly tell visitors to go elsewhere, AND be able to enforce the rule. Here are some options to consider.
Post signs at property entrances. They can be polite, but they should clearly communicate that your property is off-limits. Make sure that they’re legible and highly visible.
- Close entrances. You could set up gates, use traffic cones, or place vehicles at parking lot entrances to discourage visitors from coming onto your property. Learn more.
- Protect property. Make sure that your buildings, valuables, and vehicles are locked during the eclipse-viewing time. Someone looking for items to pawn may decide that the distraction created by the eclipse might offer opportunities to steal from a local church or ministry.
Enjoy the View
Whatever choice your ministry makes, consider how you will respond to any people on your property and the safety risks that could arise. That way, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is getting a good view of the eclipse—with safety lenses on, of course.
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