Who knew winter would last so long? Listening to the global warming crowd, I thought winter would be packed up and gone by New Year’s night. But here are, Spring having officially arrived, and the eastern coast of the United States is preparing for yet another snow storm.
But toss the mittens in the corner and pull your chair up to the fire. We need to talk.
For much of the middle and southeastern regions of our country, Spring brings with it strong, and occasionally, violent storms. Where these storms will occur is not always easy to predict, but the fact that they will come is indisputable. So, gathered around our warm fire, now is the time to plan what we are going to do if those storms come raging through our neighborhood.
When tornados or violent storms occur, it takes time, often days, for rescue crews to mobilize and reach hard-hit areas. Train your staff and teach your members to be prepared to take care of themselves for the first three days following a major storm. Television programs have conditioned Americans to think that all crimes can be solved in an hour, and that rescue crews can be mobilized, equipped, and cut through all the downed trees and power lines and be at your front door in two hours. Most of the care initially provided to survivors of storms will come from their neighbors. Create that understanding among the people you serve. They must be prepared to take care of themselves and their neighbors. Here is a link to a post that will help them be prepared.
What is your plan should a tornado or severe storm occur during one of your worship services? Do you know where the safest area of your building is? Do your ushers know how to quickly move everyone there?
Have you given any thought as to how you can keep your congregation safe during a storm without your actions adding to the hysteria? Your words and actions can incite emotions more easily than you can calm them. You should train your staff on how to best accomplish this. Whoever has the microphone must know what he is doing!
Who do you rely on to pass weather information to you during church? You can bet that your congregation, through Twitter and other messages, are getting constant updates. A trusted person should be assigned to monitor the weather and keep the leadership informed when bad weather threatens.
Performing fire and disaster drills with your staff will help create confidence and calmness if a real disaster should occur. Your leaders will know what to do and can give clear directions to those in their care. Practice drills will also reveal flaws in your plans that could prove disasterous during an actual fire or storm.
Your local police and fire departments, along with the Red Cross, will be glad to help you create emergency plans for your church. In addition, many hospitals and ambulance services have resources available. You will be surprised at all the help you will get if you just ask.
Many churches have crisis response teams that are trained to assist the community during and after tragic events. If your church plans to do this kind of ministry, make sure your folks are adequately prepared. Many church members, eager to help their neighbors following a tornado or severe storm, have become traumatized by the horrific things they encountered that they were never warned about. First responders often find mangled bodies and body parts, dead or severely injured animals, and experience sights that are difficult for them to process. Imagine how an unsuspecting and inexperienced person might react when unexpectedly faced with such terrible sights. If you are going to participate in crisis response, it is imperative that you only send out trained team members.
Whether the storm hits during a worship service or moves through a neighborhood miles away from your church, keep a close eye on those who are affected. The strain of loss, whether it is a loved one or a home or a workplace, can take a toll on people that is not immediately evident. Some folks seem fine at first, but a few months down the road, start missing church or exhibiting behaviors that are not normal for them. Realize that some of what they are experiencing could be related to what they experienced during the storm.
No emergency response plan is complete until it provides care for the caregivers. So, when you have carefully written down how you will train your staff and members to provide care during an emergency, remember that everyone you send in to help will bear a bit of the tragedy themselves. So the final piece of your response plan must tell how, when the storm is passed, you are going to take care of those who have been ministering to folks traumatized and hurt by the effects of the storm.
Helping folks prepare and recover is what we do. If you need some help with your emergency response plans, let us know. We will be glad to help.
When considering an emergency response plan, what parts do you think would be most difficult for your congregation to provide?