The blaring alarm only compounds your fear as you search from room to room. “Was it really just minutes ago that I dropped my children off for their Sabbath School classes,” you ask yourself. Other frantic parents are also calling for their children. Chaos swirls around everyone, threatening to swallow up any sense of peace.
Another father grabs your arm. “The children are safe
outside,” he shouts above the clamor. “The Sabbath School
teachers took them there.” As you emerge from the church,
you are momentarily blinded by the brightness of the sun.
Then you feel your children bury their faces in your smoky
Sabbath clothing and cling to you.
As the reality of the church fire sets in, you are grateful
for the Sabbath School teachers recently trained for such
emergencies. The foresight of the church board to implement
this type of leadership education prevented a greater tragedy
COULD THIS BE YOUR CHURCH?
Each Seventh-day Adventist church should be a place
where members worship and fellowship together. It should
be a place of peace and rest. Members cast off their burdens
and kneel at the feet of Jesus. Unfortunately, the realities of
this world bring stressful times. Churches are not exempt
from emergencies, such as active shooters and fires. How
can the church itself be a safe place if an emergency plan
is not in place? When was the last time your congregation
practiced a safety drill?
According to the National Fire Protection Association,
1,660 fires took place in religious settings in 2011. Although
the number of fires continues to decrease, this is not the time
to relax our preparedness. There are other emergencies that
occur in our communities. Church leadership must acknowledge
that these can happen in any congregation and prepare
the congregation to react responsibly.
According to Church Law & Tax, “there were 135 incidents
of shootings at places of worship in the U.S. in 2012”
and the frequency of mass shootings appears to be increasing.
Active shootings in church settings are receiving increasing
attention, which prompts church leaders to create, implement,
and practice a safety plan. When there is a plan in place and leaders have been trained for these incidents, there is a
better chance to save lives.
SAFETY SABBATH: SAFETY FOR ALL
North American Division church leadership has designated
March 26, 2016 as Safety Sabbath. This provides an
opportunity for churches and schools to participate in a variety
of drills, training, and emergency planning sessions to
prepare for any eventual crisis.
It will also serve to facilitate as a church and/or school
emergency drill. Safety Sabbath is a benefit for those who
may not conduct regular emergency drills. Safety Sabbath
will remind everyone about the importance of safety, not only
for the church but members and visitors as well.
Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM), the church’s
risk manager, will provide free resource kits on a variety of
emergency plans, including fire drills and active shooter
drills. Churches can register for a Safety Sabbath Kit, with all
the resources specific to a chosen drill. During the month of
March, each church will focus on a chosen drill and emphasize
its importance to the church members. Then on March
26, every church in North America will hold a safety drill of
their choice on Safety Sabbath.
At ARM, we work to educate members and church leaders
to ensure the safety of congregations and the church itself.
The most effective way to do this is by implementing
preventive measures and practicing what to do in a variety
of crisis situations. It prepares everyone to know what to do
when the alarm sounds.
We want every church and school to be a place of fellowship,
peace, and rest. Planning and practicing for emergencies
gives members and visitors confidence that their safety
is important each time they step through the door.
Prepare your local church and be a part of the March
26 Safety Sabbath event. Visit SafetySabbath.com for more
Elizabeth Camps is a writer and public relations
specialist for Adventist Risk Management, Inc. in
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.