If we were in a meeting and I asked how many had ever participated in a school emergency drill, such as a fire drill, almost every person would most likely raise their hand. The majority of you reading this article may instantly recall a time when you lined up with the rest of your class at school and followed the teacher outside during a fire drill. In fact, each of us probably experienced at least one, if not more, fire drills during our time in school.
Elizabeth Camps, writer and public relations specialist
Adventist Risk Management, Inc.
Now imagine we are in a room again and I ask: “How many of you have participated in a church emergency drill?” Maybe it was a fire drill, active shooter drill, or another kind of emergency drill. Would the majority of hands still be raised?
As church leaders, there are many things we do to safeguard and grow the church. We organize and lead evangelistic programs, install building alarms to prevent theft, and mount fire extinguishers in various areas of the church. But if we do not have a designated emergency plan, and if we do not practice this procedure, the reality is that we could quickly lose all that we have protected in a matter of minutes.
Safety Sabbath is all about preparation and practice. It is a day set aside for churches to emphasize emergency and safety planning. It is a day to practice the plan you have prepared, and make sure the congregation is ready for emergencies. It is an opportunity for churches to learn about the risks and potential incidents they may face, and prepare themselves to navigate those incidents.
So: why does your church need to be part of Safety Sabbath this year?
Because You Never Know What You Will Do in a Situation Until You Are in It
It’s easy to say you know what to do if a fire or other emergency occurs in your church. Many people know the necessary steps needed to evacuate a building when a fire alarm sounds. But what happens when the flames and smoke materialize? Or an attacker enters your facilities? Or you feel a sudden rumble in the ground?
The truth is we may react quite differently in that emergency situation. When an emergency occurs, it is essential to remain calm despite the chaos that may be around you. Conducting emergency drills allows participants to become familiar with the response plan in a safe environment and provides room for trial and error.
Because A Fire Is Not the Only Risk You May Face This Year
In the past few years, news coverage and testimonies report of increased kinds of emergency situations happening in schools and churches. Whether the location of your church is an open countryside or the middle of a city, various types of emergencies may occur at any time. As church leaders, we need to make it a priority to conduct a variety of emergency drills.
Your church could experience a fire emergency, natural disaster, or an active shooter incident. Each crisis requires a different response or reaction. Some may require an efficient evacuation, where others may call for individuals to shelter-in-place. It is always best to prepare for various types of risks rather than to be well prepared for only one type of emergency.
Because It’s Important to Know What to Do After You Have Evacuated the Building
When we think of an emergency drill, we may envision finding the exits and evacuating safely and efficiently. However, it is important to remember that an emergency drill doesn’t end when the congregation has safely left the building. There is still more work to be done after everyone reaches the evacuation point.
Conducting a drill helps members and leaders learn what to do after evacuating the building. Safety Sabbath provides materials and guides on the steps of each phase of the drill, including what to do after the drill has occurred. Getting safely outside is just as important as helping your church return to its regular activities in an efficient manner.
Because There is Always Room for Improvement
Each time your church conducts an emergency drill is an opportunity to execute the plan even better than the last time. Can you evacuate the building in a shorter amount of time? Is there a more efficient way to conduct the drill and exit the building? What can church leaders do to provide a sense of calm and reduce panic from the congregation?
At the end of each drill, assess the performance and make a note of areas that need improvement. Implement those changes in the emergency plan. Then act on those changes in the next drill.
Because Our Environment is Always Changing
Whether it is a new church member, a new church leader, or a redesign in the layout of the church, our environments are always changing. Conducting regular emergency drills allows new members to become familiar with the emergency plan. Practicing will help new leaders understand their roles and learn how they can make the training run smoothly. Participants learn what to do if they encounter blocked primary exits or if they are in a different area of the church at the time of the drill.
Be a Part of Safety Sabbath — Be Ready for Emergencies!
Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) invites you to join churches across the North American Division in conducting a drill on Safety Sabbath: March 24, 2018. This annual safety event is your opportunity to learn about the risks your church faces, prepare for those risks, and confidently be ready for emergencies before they occur. Get started at SafetySabbath.com.
Is your school or church prepared for an active shooter event? View the Adventist Learning Community’s “School Safety” course with Donald Scott Rackley, a security and law enforcement expert for the U.S. Army and expert investigator in the Columbine school shooting incident. This 4-module course examines how you can be more aware of your environment and make your school a safer, more secure facility.