Church Safety Tips from the Connectional Health Commission
The Reverend Natalie Mitchem, M.Div., RDN, Executive Director Connectional Health Commission
In the days and times that we now live in, it is good to have a safety plan in place for your home, work, school and church. Most of us do not think about safety or an escape plan until after an emergency or disaster occurs.
The Connectional Health Commission recommends annually in September that churches and Episcopal Districts participate in the National Preparedness Drills and in addition conduct monthly safety checks and/or meeting with key staff in your church. Shelter in place, Lock Downs and other disaster preparedness information can be found at www.AMEChealth direct link to FEMA.
The Connectional Health Commission also recommends each church and Pastor consider the following: Take a head count of all persons attending all services and events at your church. This information is important in case you must evacuate the building. Welcome all visitors and ask ushers to be observant of all visitors. Observant does not mean rude or investigative. Ushers and/or security staff should observe if this is a first time visitor and what the person is wearing and if the person(s) is willing to interactive with others. Conduct a walk through in your church and make sure all exits are properly labeled, not cluttered and locked when the building is closed. Create a secret code word and secret text message code for specific staff in case of emergency, active shooter or intruder in the building. Meet with your local emergency management team. Conduct regular fire drills and evacuation drills. Designate “safe rooms” in your church where members can hide in the event of an active shooter or other emergency. Install security cameras and an alarm system.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offers an Active Shooter Event Quick Reference Guide. The guide states “an active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area, typically through the use of firearms. Victims are selected at random. Event is unpredictable and evolves quickly. Knowing what to do can save lives.” (Resource: US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation Active Shooter Event, Quick Reference Guide)
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offers three options: Run, Hide and Fight. The complete pocket size FBI Active Shooter Guide is found online at www.fbi.gov/activeshooterguide or call the FBI Headquarters National Press Office at 202-324-3691 to order copies for your church.
2 Timothy 1: 7 God has not given us a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of sound mind (self discipline). NRSV