Church-Operated Emergency Service Command Centers
A few days ago, somewhere in Northern California, just northeast of San Francisco, a community faced disaster. Damage to the spillway at the Oroville dam displaced 200,000 residents of the cities and counties surrounding Lake Oroville. Residents fled to higher-ground cities like Sutter, but where did they all stay?
When it comes to weather, it’s been getting downright Biblical out there lately. That’s why your church should consider acting as an emergency shelter or emergency response command center. When a natural disaster occurs, your church could be your community’s salvation.
Here in California we have our fair share of natural disasters. There’s always the risk of earthquakes, fires, and, especially in La Niña and El Niño years like 2016 and 2017, rain. All the rain means we also have to worry about floods and landslides and apparently, dam and reservoir facilities. While all this water seems great, if the water doesn’t stay properly contained it can pose a danger to our homes, businesses and especially our churches.
Installing an Emergency Shelter or Command Center
Offering your church as an emergency shelter or command center is a tremendous act of compassion. If your church does decide to become a shelter, your operations team should begin by creating a plan that ensures safe operation. For instance, do you have enough staff and volunteers to handle all the tasks that come along with a shelter? If your church does have enough staff, the premises should be prepared, safety procedures should be implemented, and of course you’ll need some rules.
Here are some things you might want to think about as you create your plan:
Establish Your Plan
- Get in touch with your local officials about establishing an emergency shelter. There may be rules for what your shelter must have or do to be an official shelter.
- Check in with your friendly-neighborhood insurance agent. Your agent should be able to advise you keeping your church safe from risk when running a shelter. If your agent’s not sure, give us a call. We’re always ready to offer your ministry guidance.
- Ask your local fire department to drop by and make sure you meet the maximum occupancy and fire safety rules.
- Make sure you map your building out so you know who and what will be where. Make sure you know where people should go if there’s an emergency.
- Make sure all of your exits are clear and marked.
- Obtain enough supplies for everyone that may need them. Don’t forget food, water, blankets, pillows, personal care products, and first aid kits.
- Verify that all food is prepared safely; try to find someone trained in food safety.
Set Your Rules
- Establish and prominently display a set of shelter and behavior rules.
- Do not allow use or possession of illegal drugs, weapons, or alcohol.
- Set your shelter’s hours.
- Ask visitors sign a registration or login form and wear ID.
- Decide if animals belong in the shelter – make special exceptions for service animals.
Train Your Team
- Make someone a shelter supervisor and establish a supervision schedule for volunteers.
- Make sure your volunteers and employees know who should be monitoring the shelter.
- Inspect and monitor all walking surfaces to prevent slips and falls.
- Make sure to plan for guests with special needs and disabilities. You may need to adjust your facilities to accommodate the elderly or wheelchair users.
Your insurance company may be able to help. If your church acts as a temporary shelter during a disaster and aids in relief, it may qualify for additional coverage. The coverage can help with expenses that occur as it returns to normal activities following the disaster.
If your church operates an Emergency Service Command Center, it may qualify for up to $50,000 toward restoration of your church from any routine damage caused by housing of fire, police and emergency response personnel. In addition, there is also protection extended to your ministry’s volunteers should they travel, worldwide, to volunteer and provide disaster response services. We can help, just let us know what you’re planning.
Helping those in need is a part of many ministries. When you take the time to consider all facets of shelter operation and plan for each scenario that can occur during their operation, you help ensure that your shelter or command center will be ready to support your community during times of need.