Gone are the days where institutions only had to worry about medical or weather emergencies.  Today we see blatant hostility toward the religious rights of people of faith. This “open season” against religious facilities includes religious houses of worship, childcare centers, schools, and community centers that are affiliated with faith-based groups.

According to the Association of Statisticians of American Religions, the United States has approximately 345,000 religious congregations with about 150 million members.  Regardless of the country, religious facilities share common vulnerabilities because they are open-access and often have limited security. Faith-based organizations are constantly balancing the desire to be open to the public with maintaining a secure environment.

Is your faith based organization ready for an emergency?  Here are four keys to creating an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

Key 1 – Assess the likely (and unlikely)

There’s no way to plan for every scenario, but you can always adapt over time as EOP’s should be reviewed and updated yearly.  Your plans should address internal and external threats.  What could happen at times of worship or special Holy Days?  What about if non-congregants shelter-in-place at your campus?  What if it was a targeted hostile threat?

This likely would certainly include:

  • medical emergencies addressing patient care but also the logistics of 911 response
  • weather emergency
  • fire
  • bomb threats
  • menacing/disorderly person
  • active shooter, hostage situation

Key 2 – Consult with the experts

Once you identify the scenarios that keep you up at night, share them with local emergency responders and safety consultants such as Fire Planning Associates (Blazemark).  They will be able to help you prioritize and add to the information gathered.  This will include requirements or responsibilities that the faith-based organization should be planning for.

Key 3 – Create a plan

Take all that information you amassed from worshippers, case studies, safety experts and start to put a plan together with delegation of duties.  There is affordable preplanning safety software such as Blazemark.com that can simplify and assist with creating plans.  In fact, showing your insurer that preplanning has been completed will most likely result in the reduction of property and casualty premiums.

Key 4 – Share and train for the plan

Now that the plan is done, share it with those that need it.  Use a safety consultant like Fire Planning Associates to bring leadership, worshipers, and emergency responders together for practical tabletop exercises once a year or before major holidays/events to practice likely scenarios.  Throw away the yellowed paper and dusty binders that may or may not have gotten the last EOP revision, and instead use a modern, cloud-based pre-planning software like Blazemark.com to share plans and real time updates with internal and external stakeholders.

By following these 4 keys to creating a faith-based emergency operations plan your worshippers will feel more at ease and therefore closer to the message they need to hear while at your facility.