Thursday, March 7, 2013

Safety - Severe Weather and Fire Policies!

When we talk about safety in our children's ministries we think about screening our volunteers, signing in and picking up children, abuse prevention policies and staffing levels. We don't always stop and think about fire safety and having a severe weather policy, so let's take a few minutes to do so right now.

Fire safety requires some thought, action and communication. Consider the following . . . 
  • First for thought, get a blueprint of your facilities and determine your first and second choice for exits from each classroom and hallway in the building.
  • Once you know your fire escape routes, develop a fire safety policy. In churches where I've served our policy is simple, our teachers, shepherds and helpers will get the children out of the building and parents are to meet their children in the parking lot. We do not want panicked parents running into the children's area if there is a fire - which is what a parent would naturally think to do, but if they were to do so, it would only add to the chaos and potentially lead to injuries or worse. In addition, for our nurseries we had the policy of sending ushers to assist the nursery workers, who we have trained, to place children in cribs with wheels and then roll them out of the building. Take time to think about your buildings, the best way out and to develop your fire policies . . . before they are needed with the hope they are never needed.
  • For action, print copies of your blueprints for each room showing your first and second choice for exit in the event of fire, post throughout the building then actively and regularly train your volunteers so they know what to do. If your volunteers know ahead of time how to get out of the building, they are much less likely to panic in the event of a fire.
  • Finally, begin to communicate by letting parents know your fire safety policy. In your children's ministry brochures include a section on fire safety and be sure to print your policy so everyone knows what to do if there is a fire. Remember, if you have a fire in your building the best thing parents can do is go to the parking lot to meet their child. This will be difficult for them to do, so you need to communicate to the parents so they know your volunteers are well trained and know what to do in the event of a fire.
As for severe weather, since I live in Michigan tornadoes and winter weather are things we need to think about. If we have a severe weather warning at least one hour before services are scheduled to begin, we cancel services. If severe weather develops during services, we have a basement and interior rooms without windows where we take the children - and anyone else who is in the building at the time. Determine your severe weather policy and communicate it clearly to the people in your church.

In addition, determine where the safest places are in your building and develop a plan to get children to those places should severe weather develop during a time when children are in your building. Then, just as with your fire safety policy, train your volunteers so they know what to do in the event of severe weather.

We want our ministries to be as safe as possible so this requires thought, action and communication on our part. Consider your building and the unique weather for the area where you live and develop a plan of action in the event of a fire or severe weather . . . before you ever need them.

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