The East Coast has been hit with snow and ice yesterday and today. If you are like many of the people along the Atlantic Seaboard, you have probably been watching the news and worrying about how you will recover from the snow and slush. Grayson, as the Weather Channel has named this storm, is like a Winter hurricane.

Communities with the equipment and experience in handling storms like Grayson will recover because they prepared for the storm and know how to respond. Efficient warning systems that have been developed over many years have given communities and individuals the information they need to prepare for and respond to these weather incidents. Emergency managers have the training and expertise to pull the people, processes, and technology together, and with practice and drills, are able to make their communities safer.

In many communities, each person’s or family’s responsibility ends at the end of their driveway. They can choose to clear their walk and driveway, or not, but not clearing them opens up risks if others injure themselves on the property. They will probably be sure to have enough food to last a couple of days, if for no other reason than avoiding the mess and trouble of going to the store when things are still not clear. Almost every other responsibility for responding to snow and ice falls on the community emergency managers in your local and regional community, as well as on the providers of essential utilities like electricity and water.

Emergency managers should get praise when most people don’t notice their job. That is, people will complain when the road is not clear or the electricity takes too long to recover, but few will praise them when the execute their jobs well and prevent any issues. No emergency manager responds by “just doing what feels right” or “flying by the seat of their pants”. Rather, they assess the risks for their jurisdiction and develop plans for responding to the most likely issues. The good emergency managers do this with thorough planning and with full consideration of the situations and needs within their communities. In addition to the residents of their communities., their plans need to cover diverse constituencies such as emergency responders, utility companies, regional warehouses, and retirement communities.

A key tool used by emergency managers is a risk assessment, or RA. Emergency Managers use an RA to identify and categorize the specific risks that apply to their communities. A general RA process is to:

  1. List the people and places in their communities
  2. Assess the importance to the community of each of the items in their list of people and places
  3. List the things that could happen to those people and places
  4. Assess the impact and probability for each combination of people/place and thing
  5. Develop a response plan for each item on their list, starting with the highest ranked combination of impact and probability and working down to the lowest ranked item

A church’s Safety and Security Ministry (SSM) is like an emergency management team. In light of recently-publicized events, many churches are in the process of setting up an SSM. Churches may use different names, but the goal is the same: To provide comfort and peace so that the congregation can feel at ease, and open up to the message of the day.

If you are setting up an SSM from scratch, we recommend the following process:

  1. Establish your Safety and Security Ministry. This is more than simply appointing one person as the head of security. It is a shared function, performed by a team of directors from across the organization (facility, finance, etc.). Come to agreement on the goals of the SSM, and confirm the role of the SSM with respect to other groups.
  2. Perform a Safety and Security Risk Assessment (SSRA). An SSRA is briefly described above as an RA, but is specific to the goals of the SSM and the facilities under its purview.
  3. Use the results of the SSRA to prioritize actions. Actions can include training, facilities upgrades, appointment of new roles, deploying standard operating procedures (SOPs), and setting up regular drills.
  4. Develop a plan of action: Do the actions you can do immediately, and budget for critical items that cannot be afforded now. Consider how the projects will be funded, such as through special collections or community grants. Present and get approval for the budget.
  5. Manage progress for implementing your changes. Your plan should include milestone dates for performing the most critical actions. Use your plan to regularly check progress .

Captiva’s Safety Services Group provides products and services designed to cost-effectively streamline the process of securing places of worship. To find out more information about what we offer, please see our House of Worship Services Page. Contact Us to ask us any questions, we’ll be glad to help.