Creating an Evacuation Plan

1333491101bf2You rarely expect an emergency to affect your congregation, but realistically, a situation could happen at any time. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a made-man situation, you should be prepared with a plan of action, outlined and practiced ahead of time.

An evacuation plan is a major part of being prepared for a variety of emergency situations that your ministry may encounter.

You Need an Evacuation Plan
Reasons for evacuation vary greatly. Situations could include fire, severe weather, violence, hazardous materials, gas leaks, or something else. Since it’s impossible to anticipate which emergency your ministry may face, your evacuation plan should be:
  • simple enough to carry out quickly
  • specific enough to be helpful
  • versatile enough to apply to a variety of situations
  • Detectors: Smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, weather radios, etc.
  • Warning systems: Signals throughout the facility that include both audible alarms and flashing lights
  • Communications tools: Overhead public address system, walkie-talkies in classrooms and key areas, or another means of internal communication
  • Flashlights: Are they available in classrooms and other key areas?
  • Evacuation maps: Are the posted visibly throughout the facility? Are they specific to each area?

Next, identify essential roles and how these roles can be filled–regardless of who is in the facility at the time of the event.

  • Who will monitor the situation: weather radio, news, etc.?
  • Who has the authority to order an evacuation?
  • Who will activate the warning systems/signals (alarms, overhead announcements, walkie-talkie messages, etc.)?
  • Who is in charge of leading groups from different areas of the building (and what happens when these individuals are not available or not present)?
  • How will you know who is in your building at any given time, and how will you account for everyone (in order to ensure everyone has moved to safety)? Who will do head counts before and after evacuation?
  • Are there critical systems that need to be shut down? If so, who can/will be responsible?
  • Who will contact and talk to authorities (police, fire, medical, etc.) and respond to the media?
  • Who has the authority to call the “all clear”?

Along with evaluating your equipment, systems, and roles, you will need to create evacuation maps and identify emergency exits, routes, and destinations.

  • Create maps showing the building and grounds and post them throughout the facility. Ensure that emergency exits and routes (at least two per area) are clearly marked. Designate areas for people to assemble—both inside and outside—depending on the reason for evacuation. Outdoor gathering areas should be at least 150 feet away from the building.
  • Remember that not all evacuations will mean sending people outside. In certain instances, it’s safer to remain inside. For instance, you will want people to assemble in an internal room away from windows if a tornado is approaching.
  • Designating specific destination locations will enable you to account for people and help you know who might be missing.

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