Developing an Emergency Operations Plan
In addition to specifically addressing active-shooter incidents, the FEMA Guide suggests a process that houses of worship should follow when developing an emergency operations plan (EOP). This article provides an overview of the Guide's suggestions.
At the outset, churches should note that the Guide's suggestions apply to all types of emergencies, not just active-shooter incidents. Like any entity, churches are susceptible to harm from natural disasters, power failures, explosions, and other similar events. Although harm due to human violence is always a concern, churches should not ignore other types of threats. Additionally, the Guide's suggestions are adaptable to any size and type of congregation. Some of the details provided may seem applicable only to large groups, but groups of all sizes should consider the Guide's suggestions and apply them as much as possible. Furthermore, churches with educational institutions on their property should consult FEMA's Guide for Developing High-quality School Emergency Operations Plans for additional information.
Three federal initiatives are helpful for drafting an effective EOP. Although churches are not required to use the terminology and approaches suggested by these initiatives, doing so will aid communication and collaboration with emergency management officials and emergency responders. Individuals working in these capacities at local, state, and national levels are familiar with, and trained to follow, the procedures outlined in federal initiatives.
In 2011, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive 8 (PPD-8), which delineates the United States' approach to preparing for national emergencies in terms of five focus areas—prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery. The Guide defines these terms , which are outlined in Table 1:
Incorporating the terminology of PPD-8 into an EOP will help ensure that efforts undertaken by a church are aligned with those of first responders and others. Additionally, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System (ICS) standardize the approaches with defining responsibilities and roles and managing specific types of incidents. Churches should become familiar with these systems and incorporate their procedures as appropriate. They are available at fema.gov/national-incident-management-system.
The Guide encourages an EOP that is leadership-supported, comprehensive, and inclusive , as further explained in Table 2: