No one needs tell us that we no longer live in the same world our mothers and fathers grew up in. Violent acts happen every day in the United States, and for that matter in every country on earth. Many of us can remember the time when most mystical teachings of jesus didn’t even have locks on the doors, and counted on the decency of even thieves not to bother the church, it’s possessions, and even it’s members, at least while they were physically attending their place of worship. This is sadly no longer the case, as we are not safe, even, in our places of worship, however there are many things which can be done to ensure the safest environment possible in which to Worship God, fellowship, and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We as Christians are by nature very trusting of those of whom we don’t know, and this information is not being offered in a manner, in which to turn those of who may read it, from that most Christ-like trait. However it is offered in the hope that it may be helpful to church pastors and administrators, and aid them in formulating their own plans in which to address some of the issues we will discuss in this article.
Most churches that I know of don’t have an emergency plan (for anything). That’s right! No plan, or plans at all: no fire evacuation plan, no plan to deal with a surprise visit by violent protestors, no plan to deal with an emergency medical situation, and certainly no plan to deal with what is called in the law-enforcement community, as, an active shooter. Someone who has entered the sanctuary with a weapon and has actively engaged members of the congregation, or to engage a particular member of the same.
Now I certainly realize church pastors and administrators have many other problems to address in the performance of their duties, but the safety and security of the members of the congregation should certainly be addressed and planned for in some fashion, and if this article makes you think and make plans to address these issues, or at least start a dialogue among church leaders to deal with these issues, then I feel we will have accomplished something of great and lasting merit.
Let us first take a look at something we are all somewhat familiar with: the fire drill. This would be a good topic to bring up first in a deacon’s or church elder’s meeting. This would be a wonderful time to bring in the local Fire Chief. He or she has the expertise to offer suggestions, and help you to develop a fire evacuation plan. Suggestions of which I’m sure would include components such as:
o Assigning at least three church members in advance to assist certain elderly or infirmed members out of the building. That is three assigned to each one, if possible, because some may be unable to help, or simply not in church that day. This should be, if possible, people who could carry them out if necessary.
o Ushers should know how many people are seated in their area. This is a normal procedure, as most churches keep attendance records anyway. If three or more ushers write these figures down, it will make an accurate count possible to ascertain if there is anyone left in the church building.
o Have a designated place to meet, and have each usher count his own section. No one should leave until they have been accounted for, as someone may later risk their life in trying to save someone who is on their way home. Also, make sure the place you pick as a designated meeting place is safe. Your local Fire Department can assist you in making this decision. A parking lot may look safe to you, but may be hazardous because of overhead wires, or its close proximity to gas or propane tanks.
o Remember nothing replaces a good fire prevention program. Have the church sanctuary and all accompanying structures inspected at least once a year by a qualified fire inspection officer. This could accompany the annual fire prevention week in October, for example. Remember also to remind the congregation to check their own homes also.
o Remember to check all fire extinguishers yearly, and have an adequate number available. Most churches have members who are members of the local Fire Department, and any decision to stay and fight anything, but the smallest of fires with extinguishers should be left up to them. A fire can soon become too big to handle, even when properly trained. No one should risk their lives in an attempt to save property. Remember the importance of working with your local Fire Department and develop a viable plan. Who knows, you may even gain a member.