Creating an Evacuation Plan
You rarely expect an emergency to affect your congregation, but realistically, an emergency situation can happen at any time. Whether it's a natural disaster or a man-made situation, you should be prepared with a plan of action, outlined and practiced ahead of time.
The Need for an Evacuation Plan
As part of emergency and disaster preparedness plans, your facility should have an evacuation plan.
Reasons for evacuation vary greatly—from fire to severe weather, violence, hazardous materials, or gas leaks. Since it's impossible to anticipate exactly what type of emergency your ministry may face, your evacuation plan should be simple enough to carry out quickly, specific enough to be helpful, and versatile enough to apply to a variety of situations.
Putting Your Plan Together
Start the process by evaluating your equipment and systems to determine if you have sufficient warning and communications tools. Identify those items in your plan.
Equipment and Systems to Consider:
- Detectors such as smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, weather radio, etc.
- Warning systems/signals throughout the facility that include both audible alarms and flashing lights.
- Communications tools: overhead public address system and/or walkie-talkies in classrooms and other key areas.
- Flashlights in classrooms and other key areas.
- Evacuation maps, posted visibly throughout the facility and 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.
Roles to consider:
- 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, messages by walkie-talkies, 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.