If you’re hosting in-person service this Christmas, here are three things to plan for enhanced church safety.
The holidays present unique opportunities and challenges for churches that aren’t typical during other times of the year. For instance, in past years, you likely experienced a 20-30% growth in attendance for your Christmas services. This influx of attendees was fueled by individuals and families you’ll only see during the holidays.
There’s a big chance that your ministry will welcome in people who don’t normally attend church. These folks present a great opportunity to make relational connections with your community, but they also come with some additional, safety challenges. Are you prepared to handle them?
Visitors aren’t familiar with your church’s regular members, procedures, floor plan, or exits, which is why it’s imperative that your holiday safety and security plans include these three things.
Holiday Season Safety & Security: 3 Things to Plan Before Christmas
#1: Church Safety Evacuation Plan
When it comes to evacuations, you need to make sure that your plan addresses these five elements:
- What circumstances would warrant an evacuation?
- How will the need to evacuate be communicated?
- Have you trained your volunteers on where to lead people out of the building?
- Where will evacuees stand out of the way of responding emergency vehicles?
- Have you communicated to parents what the evacuation plan is should there be an evacuation?
It’s been my experience that churches address the evacuation concern with various degrees of intentionality. Some churches are just planning to “wing it” should an emergency arise. Other churches have actually practiced mock evacuations with the entire congregation.
The one area I find that most churches overlook relates to #5—communicating the evacuation plan. You would hate to see panicked parents frantically searching for their kids because they didn’t know where their children were safely evacuated to. Make sure that your parents—including visiting families—are apprised of the plan.
#2: Church Safety Lockdown Plan
Similar to the evacuation plan, it’s important to know in advance what situations would warrant locking down verses evacuating. One of the most common reasons to lock down is when a child goes missing. Whether it’s a child slipping out of the kindergarten room or wandering off from distracted parents after service lets out, you must move fast to enact your lost child plan before little feet take them far away.
Assuming that you’re 100% sure that the child is still in the building, the top five considerations for a lost child lockdown are:
- Who will secure the exits to ensure that the child doesn’t slip out?
- Who will disseminate the age, description, and last known location of the child?
- How will the search be conducted?
- Who will participate in the search for the child?
- Who will notify the parent(s) if they’re not already aware of the situation?
Time is of the essence in a lost child situation. The last thing you want to do is to develop your plan on the fly. If there is ANY possibility that the child may have already left the building, you need to have a plan in place for an internal building search as well as an external building and parking lot search. You also need to know when to involve the authorities so they can aid in the search.
#3: Church Safety Medical Response Plan
By far the most common situation you’ll likely encounter is a medical incident. From minor injuries resulting from a slip and fall in the parking lot to a full-blown cardiac arrest in the sanctuary, you need to have a plan and people in place to respond quickly and decisively.
When it comes to medical emergencies, here are five things to consider:
- Do you have medically trained people in place to quickly respond?
- How will you handle bystanders or environmental challenges?
- Do you have first aid equipment readily accessible?
- Who will make the determination when the situation requires a higher level of medical response?
- Who will call 911 and direct first responders to the scene?
When it comes to medical responses, most churches I encounter tend to rely on medically trained members of the congregation. While that plan may work, it relies solely on the premise that those people are at church THAT day and during THAT service. I would highly encourage you to develop a medical response plan that offers some level of redundancy so that you’re adequately covered should the need arise.
If you’d like to learn more about ways to keep your church safe and secure year-round, I encourage you to consider Group’s Safe and Secure Church: The Ministry Approach training kit. Developed in partnership with Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, the kit is jam-packed with resources and videos to help develop or improve upon any church’s safety plan. You can learn more here.