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Run to Cover

Sheltering from Storms, Disasters, and Killers

Dramatic rainy sky and dark clouds. Hurricane wind. Strong hurricane over the city. The sky is covered with black storm clouds. Scary sky.

Based on three Safety Member Certification training modules (Storms and Disasters, Arson and Fire Safety, Active Shooter Response) and three Church Security Guide articles (Preparing Your Church for Natural Disasters, Fire Safety in the Church, Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training).[1][2][3][4][5]

From the Bible

* Sheltering from extreme weather:

“Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die” (Exodus 9:18-19).

“I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest” (Psalm 55:8).

* Needing shelter in a disaster:

“... Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell ...” (Luke 13:4).

* Sheltering from human enemies:

“Take counsel, execute judgment; make thy shadow as the night in the midst of the noonday; hide the outcasts; betray not [the fugitive]” (Isaiah 16:3).

In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men (Psalm 31:20).


About 1860, Vernon J. Charlesworth penned these words: "The Lord's our rock, in Him we hide, / A shelter in the time of storm."[6]

Sheltering from danger is an old concept, with walled cities and caves. We even see it in nature, with small animals retreating to their dens, snails, clams, and turtles pulling into their shells, etc. In this day and age, there are situations when we need to find shelter. A generation ago, during the Cold War with its constant threat of nuclear war, many communities and individuals were building fallout shelters. There may be times when we need to get people in a church into shelter. Some of the situations may be a tornado, a hazardous materials spill, an active killer, or some other immediate danger to those in attendance.

In the News

Mississippi, March 24, 2023 - An EF4 tornado ripped across central Mississippi the night of March 24. Warnings left residents little time to seek cover. A family belted inside the cab of a truck survived winds rolling the vehicle over until it came to rest on its top, with them thankful for strong roll bars. People made it through by hiding in bathrooms and closets while the twister tore their houses apart. Some did manage to get to basements and storm shelters in time. AccuWeather had some tornado advice:

AccuWeather Senior On-Air Meteorologist Geoff Cornish explained that knowing the acronym DUCK could be life-saving.

D -- get Down to the lowest level.
U -- get Under something sturdy.
C -- Cover your head.
K -- Keep in shelter until storm has passed.

More than 25 were killed, including some mobile home residents.[7]

East Palestine, Ohio, February 3, 2023 - A train derailment in the village of East Palestine released toxic liquids and gasses into the waterways and air of the town and neighboring areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Officials in both states called for those people who didn't have to evacuate to shelter in place.[8][9]

Magalia, California, November 9, 2018 - The Camp Fire, which proved to be the deadliest wildfire in California history, moved rapidly through mountain communities, devastating entire towns. Thirty people fleeing the flames had gathered at Magalia Pines Baptist Church. The pastor had them all get into cars, SUVs, and vans to caravan out of town to safer areas. However, it was too late. Before they could get on the road, the surrounding woods erupted in a fire storm. The pastor herded them all back into the church and closed the doors. All the windows and vents were already closed.

As buildings around them burst into flame and propane tanks across the street exploded, they prayed. The church building was undamaged. All inside were safe and well.[10]

El Paso, Texas, February 6, 2023 - When an armed person was reported at Franklin High School in El Paso at 11:25 am, the school went into lockdown. This lasted until a suspect was arrested away from the school grounds a little before 1:00 pm. However, with a "secure" in place from "an abundance of caution," No one was permitted to enter or leave the school until police were convinced that all was safe.[11]

Whiteland, Indiana, March 31, 2023 - A few hours after an EF3 tornado hit the town of Whiteland south of Indianapolis, members of Grace Assembly of God in Whiteland began relief and sheltering for those displaced by the storm.[12][13]

Logan County, Oklahoma, March 31, 2023 - A wildfire in Logan County drove many people from their homes. The Waterloo Church of Christ provided assistance to displaced persons, using an old ambulance to make emergency supplies (food, water, blankets, etc.) available. The church itself served as a shelter.[14]

Waverly, Tennessee, August 2021 - Churches in Waverly provided shelter to people driven out of their homes by flooding in the area. They also helped with cleanup.[15]

Videocast and Show Notes

Kris discusses the topic of sheltering during an emergency in a videocast on the YouTube channel Sheepdog Church Security Academy (the audio is on a Church Security Roll Call podcast). Under the video screen (you may have to click "show more) is a link to the Show Notes (an article summary). The Show Notes are for this article until the next videocast is posted the following week.[16][17]

To a Safe Place

When there is danger, we try to get the ones we care for out of danger and into a safe place. The oldest example we have of that in the Bible is the ship-sized barge (the Ark) that Noah built which became a floating zoo during the Flood. During invasions, rural residents fled to walled cities. When David was pursued, he and his men hid in caves.

There are situations when people in the church need to take shelter. For example:

Providing a Safe Place

When our people run for cover, they need a shelter - a safe place - to go to. How do we find or make safe places for them in the church?

From Tornadoes

Six persons in two downtown churches survived the December 13, 2021 EF5 tornado that tore through Mayfield, Kentucky on its five-state route of devastation.

In the First United Methodist Church, the pastor and his wife hid in a closet while the twister knocked down all the outside walls except the front façade.

A few blocks away, in the First Baptist Church, the senior pastor and his wife along with another couple went down into the basement when they heard the sirens. From there they went into the tunnel to the education building across the street. A member of the congregation who was at home that Friday, brought many relatives and neighbors into her basement. It was the only house for blocks with a basement.[18][19]

It is easy enough to shelter six people, or even a dozen. But what if there are hundreds attending a service, such as on Easter or Mother's Day? That happened in 1994 in Goshen, Alabama, when a tornado hit a church during a Palm Sunday service.[20] They did not receive a tornado warning. Out of 140 in attendance, 20 died. This brings about two questions: How do we know when a tornado comes? and Where can we shelter that many?

How do we know when a tornado comes?

Not every place has a tornado siren. And during the sounds of a service, it may not be heard. What is needed is a weather radio with S.A.M.E. (Specific Area Message Encoding). Get one that also carries emergency notices from local agencies. It should have batteries so it can still work when the power goes out.

Where can we shelter that many?

The criteria for a tornado shelter are:

  1. Be on a lower floor or basement.
  2. Have no windows.
  3. Have narrow ceiling span (with cross beams). Example: hallway, small room, closets, restrooms.
  4. Have doors that open in.

From Toxic Air

When a train carrying tank cars with chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, toxic gasses were released into the air and toxic liquids were spilled. This was further complicated when some of the materials were burned to reduce the chance of explosions. The wreck was on a Friday, so this cancelled several churches' services that weekend in the advisory area. If the accident had occurred during services, would any of the affected churches have been able to shelter-in-place?

What is called for in an air hazard shelter-in-place alert? FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has a downloadable PDF which includes these instructions:

Obviously, any church within a mile of railroad tracks or a chemical plant should have enough plastic sheeting and duct tape on hand to seal doors and windows in this kind of emergency.

From Active Killers

This is the Hide of Run, Hide, Fight.[22] The first option, if the killer is still outside, is a lockout. All the doors to the church are locked. Since events can move swiftly, open doors should be close-to-lock (all that's needed is to close the door). If the killer is inside, while he or she is engaged by the Safety Team, congregants escape (evacuate).

Those who cannot evacuate lock down in securable rooms. What is needed are doors that are not easy to break open. A case in point is the recent Nashville school shooting. The assailant shot her way through a locked glass side door. A guest on a news show pointed out what we have said here. The glass in doors should be safety glass (double paned with clear, stretchy plastic between the layers to keep it from shattering) or safety-coated glass (a non-shatter coating on the inside). This means a bullet just leaves a small hole. A military-grade weapon can keep blasting away, but this buys time for people inside to escape or lock down.

From Wildfires

Three Baptist churches in the area torched by the Camp Fire were still standing after the firestorm. Street views of the Magalia Pines Baptist church indicate why it was unscathed.

From Fire

In case of fire, evacuate. But then, where do they go? In fire drills, have the people go to a designated re-unification area. Ideally (depending on the land layout) this could have a covering (pavilion or picnic shelter) in case of bad weather.

From Extreme Heat and Cold

Summer is coming with warmer weather. Churches will have outdoor activities. In many locations there will be days with extreme heat. Heat stress is a real hazard in hot weather. One of the first things do for heat exhaustion is to move the victim into a cool place, at least into the shade. If the event is not in a place with a pavilion or picnic shelter, you can take the victim to the restroom (if it's not a porta-john). However, it would be wise to take a foldable portable pavilion. It can be used to serve food and available to treat heat stress. If kept in an outside storage building, it would be available to shelter fire evacuees if it is snowing or raining.

The Church as a Shelter

The church itself can be a shelter during a community emergency. What we need are supplies for those staying one or more nights. These would be drinking water, sanitation essentials, First Aid and medical emergency supplies, battery-powered lights, etc.


There are times we need to run for cover, to find shelter from storms, disasters, wildfires, killers, extreme heat or cold, and other dangers. Can our church provide needed shelter at these times?

Training Notes

This article covers a broad area with just one word: sheltering. This subject is covered in three training modules ("Storms and Disasters", "Arson and Fire Safety", "Active Shooter Response") in the Safety Member Certification program, and it may touch another one ("Mass Trauma Emergencies"). This is an example of why Church Safety Teams are urged to have all their members trained and certified. These topics tie into each other.

There are three training formats for the training and certification.

Team Certification (church-hosted classes) get the entire team trained together. This is ideal for training a new team. They can then also take the re-certification together in two years. Some advantages are interaction between the students and the instructor, interaction among students, asking and answering questions, scenario role playing, and practice sessions.

Individual Certification (self-paced online instruction) can train a new member of an existing team immediately. This member does not have to wait months (or over a year) to be trained. Also, if a member cannot attend a class in person, it can be taken online.

Online Events (live Zoom classes) are open to both groups and individuals. They combine the advantages of team and individual certification. "Arson and Fire Safety" is the next class. The current classes are on Sundays at 3 pm Central Time with Kris Moloney as instructor. Three classes are left in the 2022-2023 school year, but those enrolling now can complete the course when the 2023-2024 school year begins in September. Enrollment is valid for a year. They can also complete the course through Individual Certification,

Color coding:

Related to Article







Training Module


Sep 11

Nov 13

Jan 29

Mar 26

Safety Team Fundamentals


Sep 18

Nov 20

Feb 5

Apr 2

Active Shooter Response


Sep 25

Dec 4

Feb 12

Apr 16

Deescalating Disruptive Persons


Oct 2

Dec 11

Feb 19

Apr 23

Protecting Children from Abuse


Oct 9

Dec 18

Feb 26

Apr 30

Basic Use of Force Laws


Oct 16

Jan 8

Mar 5

May 7

Arson and Fire Safety


Oct 23

Jan 15

Mar 12

May 21

Storms and Disasters


Nov 6

Jan 22

Mar 19

Jun 4

Mass Trauma Emergencies

Another training resource is the Church Security Guide. Its nine articles tie in with the classes. They can be read at any time to keep the mind fresh on their subjects.

Up Next

"2014 Anna Prayer Center Stabbing" (Lesson Learned from a Deadly Force Church Attack) is the next article.


  1. Kris Moloney, Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  2. Kris Moloney, Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  3. Kris Moloney, "Preparing Your Church for Natural Disasters," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  4. Kris Moloney, "Fire Safety in the Church," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  5. Kris Moloney, "Church Safety Teams and Active Shooter Training," Church Security Guide, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2019 [].
  6. Vernon J. Charlesworth. "A Shelter in the Time of Storm," about 1860; accessed on [].
  7. Adriana Navarro (AccuWeather staff writer), "Mississippi tornado survivors recount vital moments of taking shelter," AccuWeather, March 31, 2023 [].
  8. Abigail Cloutier, "Shelter-in-place for East Palestine residents," WKBN, February 4, 2023 / Updated: February 4, 2023 [].
  9. C. Aileen Blaine, "Pa. governor advises residents to shelter-in-place," WKBN, February 6, 2023 [].
  10. David Roach, "‘The woods exploded' amid pastor's fire rescue," Baptist Press, November 12, 2018, updated November 13, 2018 [].
  11. Gabriela Rodríguez, "Lockdown lifted at Franklin High School; individual apprehended off campus," KSTM, February 6, 2023, updated February 7, 2023 [].
  12. Caroline Beck, "Whiteland, Indiana, likely hit by EF2 tornado, NWS says after surveying damage," Indianapolis Star, April 1, 2023 [].
  13. Ryan Trares, "Church opens up relief center for tornado victims," Daily Journal, April 3, 2023 [].
  14. Kolby Terrell, "A church in Logan County stepped up to help those Oklahomans impacted by Friday's wildfires," KOCO TV, April 1, 2023 [].
  15. Ashley Luningham, "Waverly churches help survivors of deadly flood," WBBJ TV, August 27, 2021 [].
  16. Kris Moloney, Sheepdog Church Security Academy, YouTube [].
  17. Kris Moloney, Church Security Roll Call, SoundCloud [].
  18. Lauren Adams, "Pastor, wife were inside 100-year-old Mayfield church as it was destroyed by tornado," WLKY, Updated December 13, 2021 [].
  19. Holly Meyer, "In tornado's wake, a church and pastor turn to God, service," AP News, December 16, 2021 [].
  20. William Thornton, "20 years after Palm Sunday tornado, Goshen church members ‘just pray for sunshine'," Alabama Live (, March 27, 2014, Updated: March 28, 2019 [].
  21. Staff, "Shelter-in-Place for Chemical Hazard," Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, November 2021 [].
  22. Kyle Rankin, "Run, Hide, Fight," Ready Houston, City of Houston, © 2012 [].