New guide for emergency preparations

The Department of Homeland Security has developed a new resource for preparing for and responding to emergency situations in church buildings. The Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship was released in June.

It includes information on developing response plans for natural disasters, and it also has a section on responding to “active shooter” situations. DHS also has a webinar, Conducting Security Assessments: A Guide for Schools and Houses of Worship.

See also the InterConnections article from April 2013, Planning for Emergencies and the Unthinkable.

Planning for emergencies and the unthinkable

From one of our April feature stories, now available online at

Is it possible to imagine that an armed intruder could show up on Sunday morning at one of our congregations, inflamed about our inclusiveness or a particular justice stance we’ve taken in the community, and proceed to do us harm?

It happened in 2008 at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. Then the Newtown shootings made us think about it again. However, given everything else we have to worry about, is this something we really need to spend time considering? Or is the possibility of this kind of mayhem so remote that it will never rise to the top of our list of things to be concerned about?

The Rev. Aaron Payson votes for remote—and he votes for planning for it. That’s because he understands that safeguarding against armed intruders should simply be a part of a much broader safety plan that every congregation should have. He estimates that less than 20 percent of UU congregations have such a plan.

Go to the full article.

How churches can prepare for natural disasters

When a hurricane is almost on top of you, there are still a few things that religious professionals and lay leaders can do to make a difference for their congregations:

• Copy off a list of members’ phone numbers so you can reach them later. Ideally that list will include cell phone numbers. And ideally you’ve asked people previously where they might evacuate to in case of an emergency. That makes it easier to find them.

• Designate a member or a team to call or otherwise try to find people when the immediate crisis has passed. This could mean dividing up the congregational membership list beforehand.

• Send your own emergency contact information to members.

• Designate someone who lives near the congregation’s building to come check on it so that you will know as soon as possible how much damage has occurred. If streets are impassable, others may not be able to get there. Make sure the designated person can get into the building.

• Download and/or backup critical congregational files and copy important documents. Place them in a safe and secure location away from your building.

• Lay in emergency supplies, including water, food, batteries, and flashlights not only at home, but at the congregation’s building. Let members know what support will be available there when the storm passes.

• If your building site is in danger of flooding, move items of value to higher floors, if possible.

• Invest in a couple of blue roofing tarps so you can cover any damaged roofs, if necessary, before repair crews can get there.

And when the storm has passed, carefully read the UU Congregational Emergency Preparedness Manual. It includes information on advance planning for emergencies and what to do in the aftermath of one.