It happened in Pennsylvania just days ago.
Sadly, disturbing events do happen in and around churches. Over the last few years, there have been a broad range of incidents in local Massachusetts churches. Here are but a few: “Pastor’s car stolen while she preached ‘thou shalt not steal.’” It happened in Quincy. (The car keys were taken from her locked office, just a few feet from the church’s nursery.) There was a decapitated pig’s head found defacing a nativity set in Haverhill. A bomb threat caused the cancellation of an Easter Vigil in Hopkinton. This winter, storms caused water damage, cancellations, and a roof collapse. Vandalism, fire, terror, weather-related disasters, medical emergencies, police activity, and stuck elevators all happen.
Preparation is the key to remaining calm and effective in any emergency. To that end, the MACUCC Disaster Resource Team invites you to consider whether your church is ready if an emergency should occur in your church.
Do you have an emergency protocol?
Do you have people designated for specific roles such as comforter, facilitator, and first-responder? Is there someone designated to call 9-1-1?
Do you have medical personnel in your congregation? Are your emergency evacuation routes posted? Are they made known to groups that use your space? Are your exits clearly marked?
Do people know where the fire extinguishers are…and how to operate them? Is anyone designated for this task?
Do you have an evacuation protocol? Who will assist with the children, disabled, and elderly folks? Children, teachers, and parents should all be well informed of your procedures and know where to meet following any incident. Particularly with regard to the children, it is a good idea to practice your emergency protocol through drills.
Are the nursery and children’s education areas secure? Is there some kind of communication system, such as an intercom, monitor, phone or doorbell available between the Sunday School room and the rest of the church? (Particularly important in churches with a one room schoolhouse and only one teacher.) Is there a phone in the education area?
Do you lock any of your entrances once services have begun? Is there a protocol for securing your space?
Is there someone to act as a greeter at the church entrances? Does anyone beside the pastor face the narthex? I recall a seminary Instructor who spoke of being assaulted in church during service. Do you have folks that can escort unruly people out?
During or after an emergency, how will you inform people? If you cannot use your space, how/where will you hold service? Do you have a secret or closed Facebook group or a ‘member only’ section on your website?
Is your coffee hour food secure or is it left out in an open area without supervision in a space where anyone can come and go without notice?
Time is precious in emergency situations. Take time now to invite your Deacons, Trustees, and Council members to create a protocol so you’ll have it if/when you need it. For other helpful information about how you and your church can prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters, please visit the Mass Conference Disaster Resource Team at: www.macucc.org/macuccdisasterresourceteam.
Rev. Estelle Margarones
MACUCC Disaster Resource Team
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