Many churches step outside their usual way of doing things around the holidays. There are special services, decorations, and events that keep us busy, excited—and sometimes unsafe. With that in mind, how can we keep members and visitors safe during the holidays?
Parking lots and walks
It begins in the parking lots. Many events take place in the evening during this season, so churches should check to see that there is adequate lighting in the parking lot and around the building. For those in locations that receive snow and ice, a solid plan to keep the lots and outside walkways clear is nonnegotiable.
Steps and entryways
Always make sure steps and entryways are clean and dry. This may mean having salt and a shovel at each entrance and a plan for someone to be responsible to keep it cleaned off anytime someone is going to be at the church. And don’t neglect just inside the door. Often slush and snow can gather here, making it unsafe. Not only should you have entrance mats for the season, but also have hazard signs or cones to warn visitors of dangerous conditions. If necessary, have a mop and bucket handy and designate someone to keep the entrance area and steps free from snow and slush.
Every church strives for beautiful decorations and a seasonal atmosphere. But these can hazards if you’re not careful. Even the method in which you decorate can be hazardous to those helping. All ladders and equipment should be inspected. Elderly people and those with health issues should not climb ladders or exert themselves.
When it comes to lighting, electrical decorations should be inspected every year before using them. Also remember that candles are often pinpointed as the cause of many seasonal fires. These fires can stem from advent candles and the candles from a candlelight service. Again, when introducing something that is not done week in and week out, sometimes people forget or do not use good judgment.
Each year, we hear of people falling from a live Christmas tree, being kicked by an unruly donkey in a live nativity, or simply falling off of an elevated riser. These accidents can be prevented. The key is planning. A staff member or leader should be responsible for making sure every event has a safety plan. And prior to any event, there should be a walk-through with a safety checklist, seeking to reduce the chance of injuries. Involve safety experts or members of your safety and security team in your seasonal planning.
Awareness, training, and communication
Ultimately, the best defense against accidents and injuries is awareness, training, and communication. Making leaders and members aware of issues of safety around the holidays is not only good ministry, but is another way for the church to show they care. Add reminders of safe practices and hazard awareness to the bulletin, hanging signs, and announcements.