Fatal bounce house accidents.
The media constantly reminds us that unthinkable things can happen. And they can happen anywhere. Your state. Your town. Your church.
How to help prevent, prepare and protect your religious organization against threats
Your facility is a place of comfort and safety for your community. Help keep it that way by creating a comprehensive list of potential hazards, developing a committee to build accountability, making plans for all known risks and training your team on protocol for each situation.
1. Assess your risksYour organization's unique operations and initiatives make your risks and vulnerabilities equally unique. The first step to protecting your church is to understand the potential threats you may face.
- Educate yourself on the risks that religious organizations face, including:
- General risks like injury prevention, safety and security
- Special events such as fairs, fundraisers and camps (as well as the risks each event could bring like liquor liability, rental agreements and premises liability)
- Abuse and harassment
- Crime including acts of violence, vandalism and fraud
- Cyber security
- Auto safety and transportation
- Personnel management including employees, volunteers and boards
- Property management like trip and fall hazards and fire safety
- Severe weather including floods, hail, wind and ice
- Mission trips and travel
- Media and reputation management
- Create a comprehensive list of all church activities, programs and events and note what risks each initiative brings
- Ask local law enforcement, security experts and your insurance company to see what hazards you may be missing
2. Create a committee
Organizations with in-house safety and security committees have fewer and less severe losses from employee accidents, claims by the public and property losses than those who do not. Create a team that includes people with varied experiences so they're able to find all levels of threats.
Some tasks that a safety committee can be responsible for include:
- Creating security goals and recommendations such as frequency of safety evaluations and trainings
- Developing safety-related policies and plans, and updating them as new activities and risks arise, such as lock door policies, cyber security best practices and harassment and discrimination training
- Analyzing accidents and loss data including the location, time of day, date, environment and people involved in incidents to help prevent future occurrences
- Raising awareness for safety initiatives including making formal announcements, posting on bulletin boards and sharing relevant information with internal communications
- Recognizing those who have made a positive contribution to the safety of your organization
- Inspecting your building and grounds including building access, visibility, access for individuals with disabilities, structural integrity and emergency vehicle access
- Asking safety experts for advice and guidance
3. Make a plan
No matter what plans and precautions are put in place, accidents happen. For each emergency or threat your church could face, it's important to make a plan.
Each emergency plan should include:
- Key contacts including internal staff, law enforcement, fire departments, hazmat crews, contractors and an insurance agent
- Chain of command and individual responsibilities
- How to report each type of threat (call 911, use intercom system, notify leadership, etc.)
- Evacuation polices and escape routes, as well as procedures for assisting others, gathering locations and accounting for all employees, members and volunteers
- Rescue and response protocol including CPR, first aid kits and emergency contacts for employees
- How to best prepare your employees and members for each emergency
4. Train your staff, volunteers and congregation
Whether it's a drill, exercise or classroom-style training, employees and necessary members should be trained on your emergency plans and protocol. Depending on the likelihood and severity of each situation, additional announcements and training should also be done for your general congregation and volunteers.
Each training should provide your employees with an understanding of:
- Roles and responsibilities
- Possible threats and emergencies
- Communication procedures
- Response best practices and equipment locations
- Evacuation and shutdown procedures
The dangers churches face are ever-changing. It's important to continually look at potential risks and help protect your church by addressing each potential situation. Has your leadership adjusted the ways you address safety within the past several years? If so, comment below and let us know what you've found to be effective.
The Glatfelter Team
When this team of rockstars isn't immersed in the process of researching how to reduce the risks your organization faces, we share stories of our pets, kids and favorite pizza toppings—on the daily.
Some worship centers to explore new ways to grow and survive, including merging congregations. If you are considering a merger, keep these tips in mind.