Imagine a scenario where you are listening to a sermon at your place of worship on a Sunday morning, and you hear an outdoor warning siren wail nearby. Or perhaps you see a person acting suspiciously in your place of worship and they draw a weapon. What about a fire alarm sounding or just a loss of electrical power? What will you do in these situations? Is your congregation ready?

We have seen what can happen as with the tornado impact on Palm Sunday of 1994 near Piedmont, AL, and the recent violence on June 17 in Charleston, SC. A disaster or an attack could happen anywhere at anytime. 

A group of women pray together outside Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., in remembrance of the June 17 shooting victims (Source: CNN).

The State of Alabama has created ReadySunday, an initiative that encourages religious organizations to create a disaster plan and educate their congregations on what to do and how to respond if a disaster was to occur, or if attacked. Faith-based organizations from around the area will also come together during National Preparedness Month (September 2015) to educate their congregations on how to be prepared. Promoting disaster awareness can save time, money, and most importantly lives.

Houses of worship should take an all-hazards approach in preparing for an emergency. As for families and individuals, these basic steps provide a framework to get prepared:

1. Be informed. All hazards are unique, so faith-based organizations need to learn and be aware of what kind of hazards can happen, and what effects a certain hazard can have on the people and building. It is important to know what our risks are in Alabama and prepare your congregation and yourself.

2. Make a plan. It is recommended that the leadership at the place of worship should form a disaster planning committee and create a written plan. A link to a thorough and modifiable template of an emergency operations plan can be found at the bottom of the page. Part of this process also involves communicating the plan to all participants.

3. Build a kit. A disaster kit should be assembled with supplies necessary to survive during and after an emergency. Some items a congregation may include in the kit, but are not limited to, flashlights with backup batteries, a first aid kit, and a weather radio.

Organizations like yours play an integral role in our community, especially during and after disasters.  Not only will congregation members turn to their faith in times of crisis, but community members will seek out your organization for comfort and support.  With the collaboration of faith-based groups and government agencies, we can work together to educate and empower our communities to prepare before disasters strike.

For more information about ReadySunday – CLICK HERE

Helpful Tools:

FEMA Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship – CLICK HERE

Modifiable House of Worship Emergency Operations Plan Template (Source: Georgia Emergency Management Agency)

Serve Alabama Church Disaster Planning Checklist – CLICK HERE