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Emergency Planning for the Elderly and Disabled

Proper planning and communication among church staff and volunteers ensure all remain safe in an emergency, including the elderly and disabled. It is important to plan for the evacuation of all church members from your facility.

Here is how to set up emergency planning for elderly and disabled church members:

Identify

Designate someone to identify those in your congregation with any special needs. Meet with those people and their families to discuss what steps should be taken to assist them in safely exiting the facility. Discuss egress from various places in your buildings—not just the sanctuary.

Plan

Devise a response plan using the information you’ve gathered. Discuss with your staff and volunteer leadership exactly what must take place in an emergency. Share the various scenarios that could potentially occur and the safest approach in the event of emergency. For example, plan the best exit for those in wheelchairs, and create a plan for getting people to and from each level of the facility safely.

Work with the Board of Trustees to make sure there are signs, pathways, and proper lighting for those who are not able to leave on their own.

Communicate

Share your plan with those in need so they can suggest changes, if necessary. Communicate with leadership and get buy-in. Then, make sure the appropriate staff and volunteers know, understand, and can execute the plan.

Communicate with and train ushers, greeters, staff, teachers, medical providers, and others you will rely on in an emergency. Seek input and help them understand their roles in the process.

Finally, share your expectations in the event of an emergency with your congregation.

Practice

Conduct an emergency evacuation drill at the end of a service. Have people exit the sanctuary as if there were an emergency. Let the congregation know ahead of time that a drill will occur. Plan to practice at least once a year.

Evaluate

Gather as a team and review the drill to determine what might need to be revised. Again, engage with those with special needs and see if they could evacuate according to plan. Make modifications and communicate the changes to everyone.

This type of planning sends a strong message to the elderly and those with special needs that they are valued. They will appreciate the church taking the time to plan for them. 

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