You rarely expect an emergency to affect your congregation, but realistically, a situation could happen at any time. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a made-man situation, you should be prepared with a plan of action, outlined and practiced ahead of time.
An evacuation plan is a major part of being prepared for a variety of emergency situations that your ministry may encounter.
Reasons for evacuation vary greatly. Situations could include fire, severe weather, violence, hazardous materials, gas leaks, or something else. Since it’s impossible to anticipate which emergency your ministry may face, your evacuation plan should be:
Evaluate equipment and systems. Start by evaluating your equipment and systems to determine if you have sufficient warning and communications tools. Include:
Roles to consider. Next, identify essential roles and how these roles can be filled—regardless of who is in the facility at the time of the event.
Maps, exits, and meeting spaces. Along with evaluating your equipment, systems, and roles, you will need to create evacuation maps and identify emergency exits, routes, and destinations.
During an emergency, it’s important to let people know what is happening. Leadership will need to know the situation so they can properly direct others. In general, people need to know where to go and what to do.
Designating and using simple key words like “Code White” for a winter storm or “Code Medical” for an injury or illness might be helpful. These codes and locations can be communicated by overhead public address system, walkie-talkies, or both.
When you identify codes for specific kinds of incidents—fire, severe weather, medical, hazardous material, violence, etc.—you should assign a desired evacuation method. By calling a code, it can enable your leadership as well as others to know how to evacuate.
Keep in mind there may be people with special needs in your facility at the time of an emergency. Special needs could include anything from hearing or visual impairment to physical limitations, and even to those who do not speak English. How will your warning systems (sound, light, overhead communication) and evacuation maps and routes affect them?
How will your plan be affected when members of the leadership team are not in the building? Will those who are in the building know what to do and where to go?
It’s a good idea to have a trained emergency services professional review your plan to help identify weaknesses, suggest improvements, and ensure compliance with recommended practices.
Train and practice. Typically, your local fire, police, and emergency medical services organizations will help review your plan at no charge. Once you have developed a plan, you should review it, practice it with your staff and volunteers, and update it at least annually.
The evacuation plan is just one element in your emergency “tool kit.” As essential as it is, your emergency preparations can’t stop here. Explore Brotherhood Mutual’s online Safety Library to find more information on preparing your church for emergencies and disasters.
Thank you for your interest in Brotherhood Mutual. We appreciate the opportunity to provide your church or other ministry with an insurance quote and will reply to your request as soon as possible.
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