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Staying Safe This Summer

Promoting and Practicing Summertime Health and Safety

Girl and boy learn to roller skate in summer park. Children wearing protection pads and safety helmet for safe roller skating ride.

The theme of seasonal safety in this article touches on several Safety Member Certification training modules.[1]

From the Bible

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22).

Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter (Psalm 74:17).


We are now, as the 1902 song says, "In the Good Old Summertime."[2]

It is that time of year many look forward to. In most of the country it is the most enjoyable season for outdoor activities. Snowbirds move back to their northern homes, leaving their sub-tropical retreats behind until the next winter.

For churches this includes Vacation Bible School, church camps, camp meetings, picnics, summer sports, trips, etc. Children get to play outdoors while their parents are in meetings. This listing is only a sample.

As with all the seasons, summer has its own hazards in addition to the year-round ones. Therefore, church safety teams should remain vigilant in protecting the flock. This includes seasonal hazards.

One challenge in providing and promoting safety is team members going on vacation with their families. The challenge for the safety director is in scheduling team members to cover for those who are gone.

In the News and on the Web

Atoka, Oklahoma, August 7, 2018 - During practice on a hot and humid day, several members of the Atoka High School marching band were sidelined by heat stress. Some suffered heat stroke, others heat exhaustion, and most dehydration.[3]

Wallace County, Kansas, July 14, 2023 - Members of a Spokane, Washington, church were on their way to the National Bible Quiz Tournament when the driver of the 15-passenger van lost control, went off the road on the right, overcorrected, went off the other side into a ditch, and repeatedly overturned. Three of the members died and two others were injured. Three adults died, two more were injured. There were also ten children aboard. The ones who died were not belted.[4]

Finleyville, Pennsylvania, May 11, 2024 - Without warning, a tornado hit a church in the Finleyville area, tearing off part of the roof while a service was in progress. Members went to the basement where they stayed half-an-hour. There were few injuries.[5]

Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, September 2010 - During the aftercare program at a church, a girl who was only 19 months old fell off a playset and broke her arm. The set was age-graded for children 5 and older. The parents sued the church for negligence. A jury awarded the family $107,000 dollars for past and future medical care.[6]

Warren County, Summer 2023 - As reported by a public health nurse, improper preparation and handing of food led to food poisoning and food-borne illness at a church's annual picnic. The investigation began after at least half of those attending the picnic became ill. The meat sat out too long after cooking without being kept hot enough to prohibit bacterial growth, and raw poultry had been in contact with serving dishes and dinner plates.[7]

style="text-decoration:underline;"Topsfield, Massachusetts, August 14, 2023 - Almost two dozen children were stung by a swarm of bees during a day camp at a church in Topsfield. One of the children had to be hospitalized with anaphylaxis.[8]

Taylors, South Carolina, April 8, 2017 - A Saturday carnival on the grounds of a church in Taylors had rented bounce houses to be used by children. These were anchored to the ground. However, the weather changed from no wind to gusty. One strong gust picked up a bounce house, breaking the straps loose, and took it into a tree. It fell to the ground, injuring children inside. A second one was picked up and taken into power lines. Some men grabbed the straps hoping to weigh it down, but the gust carried them up too. That bounce house hit a power line, which broke, and fell back to the ground. Of the five children hurt, two were hospitalized, one with permanent injuries. [9][10]

Thorns among the Roses

The "Good Old Summertime" doesn't feel so good when good times are interrupted by illness and injury. It's like grabbing a rose and being stabbed by the thorns. Alertness and taking precautions are essential to a safe enjoyment of summer. So let's take a look at a short list of summertime hazards and church safety.

Hot Weather

The number one threat of hot weather is hyperthermia (heat stress). This can vary from mild discomfort through heat exhaustion to heat stroke. The top preventative of heat stress is hydration. Our bodies' defense against heat is perspiration, and for that you need water. If this water is not replaced, the body's functions suffer, and if persons do not sweat, they overheat.

When the church has outdoor activities in hot weather (especially in high humidity), provide beverages (especially water) to keep people hydrated. Also provide foods and beverages for replenishing electrolytes, such as sodium, chlorides, and potassium. Also have shade available.


Vehicle trips have their hazards, whether short or long. Summer is a good time for long trips because of the good weather. However, highway driving involves high speeds, and long distances produce fatigue, frequent factors in accidents. The church van from Spokane traveled long, straight stretches of highway in Kansas. This can induce what is called "highway hypnosis," making it easy to miss or misjudge a curve.

The vehicle in this accident was a 15-passenger van. These have come under criticism from highway safety experts because they might not handle well with sudden turns, such as correcting when off the edge of the road. This is especially true when fully loaded. Many churches get older models of these because they're affordable, but this means added risk.

  1. Here's a little advice:
  2. Use drivers experienced and qualified for the vehicles to be used.
  3. Vet drivers' driving records.
  4. Use safer vehicles. For 15-passenger vans, tandem (double) rear wheels are safer.
  5. Properly maintain vehicles.

Violent Weather

Tornado season extends into the summer, and the hurricane season begins in summer. Then there may be pop-up storms. Prepare for violent weather.

Playground Accidents

Playground accidents are more common than we'd like to think. They just don't often make it into the news unless someone is killed or a lawsuit is filed. Playground equipment is age-graded. For instance, sand boxes for toddlers (ages 2-5) and older, the climb-and-slide towers for age 5 and older, and swings are usually toddlers in bucket seats, 5-8 in saddle seats with adults controlling, over 8 solo with saddle or board seats.

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission lists three age groups: 6 months to 2 years, 2 through 5 years, and 5 through 12.[11]

Adult supervision is always advisable for playgrounds.

Food Poisoning

Outdoor picnics with warmer temperatures than indoors and the presence of pests presents challenges for food safety. Oh yes, the cans of pop (soda) are in an ice chest along with the individual ice cream cups. But how about other sensitive foods, such as those with milk, meats and eggs? The general rule for food safety is 40-140: keep cold foods under 40ºF and hot foods over 140ºF. This is to stop the growth of harmful bacteria and the toxins they produce.

Always critical for food service is sanitation and guarding against chemical contamination. For instance, keep tableware (plates, cups, utensils) clean, use clean hands (vinyl gloves preferred) when handling food, and don't store food with cleaning products.

Make sure those providing the foods know this.

Insect Allergies

Not everyone is allergic to insect bites and stings, but those who are can have a full-body allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which can be deadly for some. We can't always prevent bees, hornets, stinging ants, and mosquitoes from being in the area, but we can repel some of them with repellent sprays, citronella, etc.

Avoid alcohol around bees, wasps, and hornets. Alcohol in the air intoxicates them, and then they are not nice.

Always be prepared to treat insect stings and bites with emergency epinephrine injection (a common brand is EpiPen). This can also be used for allergic reactions to food or medicine.

Bounce Houses

Like playground injuries, those in bounce houses are more common than those that make the news. As with playgrounds, adult supervision is advised. The news story above shows that the anchors don't always hold in a stiff gust.[9][10]


Fire is often used outdoors, with grills, fire pits, camp fires, torches, lanterns, and bonfires. These may not set the house afire, but people can still be burned. Children should always be watched around fire. Keep flammable items (such as clothes) away from flames. Do not pour, squirt, or spray flammable liquids on a fire. They can explode, shooting fire at those nearby.

Promote Safety

Lead the congregation in summer safety by example, by education, and by advice.


Church activities are more fun overall when they are safe. Educate and exemplify safety in your church. Safety should not take a vacation.

Training Notes

All members of church safety teams are urged to be trained and certified. Most of the Safety Member Certification training modules contribute to the topic of summer safety. Online Events (live Zoom classes) will restart in the Fall. Those who want to take a class in the summer can do so through Self-Paced Training (individual online instruction).

Not for credit but a helpful overview of church safety and security topics is the Church Security Guide with its ten articles. These articles are also posted under Safety Ministry Training Articles on the Sheepdog Church Security training website under the tab Church Security Guide. Other tabs are Lessons Learned (from deadly-force attacks), Guest Articles, and Team Briefing (where this article will be found).


  1. Kris Moloney, Safety Member Certification, Sheepdog Church Security, © 2020 [].
  2. "'In the Good Old Summertime' (George Evans, Ren Shields), 1902," Wikipedia, [].
  3. Cam Smith, "Oklahoma high school band members suffer heat stroke, dehydration during steamy practice," USA Today High School Sports, August 8, 2018 [].
  4. Vincent Saglimbeni, "Three members of Spokane church killed in van crash in Kansas," KXLY, July 16, 2023 Updated July 17, 2023 [].
  5. Yazmin Rodriguez, "'The windows blew out': Woman shares terrifying moment tornado hit Washington County church: The tornado hit the Crossroads Ministries Church," WTAE, Updated May 11, 2024 [].
  6. Berniard Law Firm attorney, "Playground Injury at Jefferson Parish Baptist Church Aftercare Program Leads to Lawsuit," Berniard Law Firm, July 31, 2016 [].
  7. Marnie, "CHN in Practice: a Case Study," Course Hero: Independent Learning Centre, January 26, 2024 [].
  8. Asher Klein and Kirsten Glavin, "Swarming bees sting numerous kids dozens of times at Topsfield camp, 7-year-old boy hospitalized," NECN (NBC New England), August 15, 2023, Updated August 16, 2023 [].
  9. Kevin O'Toole, "Airborne bounce house at church festival injures five children," ABC News 10, April 9, 2017 [].
  10. Anna Lee, "Girl remains in hospital after freak bounce house accident," Greenville News, April 11, 2017 [].
  11. Staff, "How to Choose Age-Appropriate Playground Equipment," Play and Playground Encyclopedia, with information from U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) publication #325-10, "Public Playground Safety Handbook," no date given, [].