Disasters happen everywhere. There is no special bubble of protection surrounding churches that protect them from disasters. The key is planning for and responding to disasters instead of simply reacting to disasters when they occur.
Planning. Many people focus on the first two words of Disaster Recovery Planning and focus too little on the last. It is difficult and sometimes impossible to recover from a disaster without proper planning.
Seriously, though, what disasters do churches face? These range from the simple to the complex.
- Power loss
- Tech Ministry equipment failure
- On-site accident or serious injury
- Missing child
- A person presenting a threat on campus
- Loss of life
- Building loss
- Natural disaster affecting the entire community
These are just a few of the possible disasters that a church can encounter. Deciding how your organization will respond ahead of time can reduce or even prevent confusion when the disaster occurs.
Create a Disaster Recovery Plan
Borrowing simple steps from the Information Technology industry (where I spend my day) can be useful in creating your Disaster Recovery Plan.
- Admit that a disaster can happen – From what I understand, admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.
- Create a categorized list of threats to the organization – Start with the list above and expand from there. Create categories such as: Facilities, Personnel, Guests, Ministries.
- Inventory important assets – Items in this inventory will include: IT assets containing sensitive financial and personal data, insurance policies, tech equipment serial numbers and maintenance contract information and building blueprints and schematics.
- Create action plans for each threat – Action plans should include the 4 steps to Emergency Management
- Mitigation – Implement plans or processes to prevent the threat (security systems, fire suppression, child check-in)
- Preparation – Prepare for the instances when mitigation plans fail.
- Response – Create specific steps to follow when a disaster occurs. For example, what steps should be followed to evacuate the building safely in the event of power loss? These steps will involve greeters, ushers, children’s ministry staff, and parking lot workers among others.
- Recovery – List specific steps to recover from the disaster. How will you replace failed equipment? How will you replace or repair damaged building assets?
- Train staff and volunteers – To ensure that the plan you have created is executed, train staff and volunteers on threats they may face and the proper steps for response and recovery. Train regularly to keep the information fresh and to include new staff and volunteers.
Disaster Recovery Planning is Never Finished
Unlike other organizational projects like building a building, disaster recovery planning is never finished. The last step in creating a Disaster Recovery Plan should be establishing a regular plan review cadence. There should be an annual review. Take time to review asset inventories, threat assessments and action plans. Any time there is a change, train the affected staff or volunteers on key changes.
Planning Prevents or Reduces Panic
Disasters create enough stress, tension and uncertainty. Insert some calm into the chaos by having a clear plan people can follow when responding to a disaster. There is an important difference between a reaction and a response. A reaction is like a reflexive action that requires little thought. Pulling your hand away from a flame doesn’t require much thinking. A response implies that there was considered thought involved. Our organizations need to respond, not react.
Regardless of how detailed your final Disaster Recovery Plan is, remember, planning is best done in advance.
[Image via Alejandro Escamilla]