And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-8 (ESV)
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.
~ 1 Timothy 4:15 (ESV)
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
~ Hebrews 5:14 (ESV)
If we ask someone what a spelling drill is, they might say, “Practicing spelling words correctly.” That is right, but it brings up the question of “What is practice?” In the last two texts above, “practice” means “do.” When we practice something, as in a drill, we do it repeatedly so that we learn how to do it and do it right.
The text from Deuteronomy says to teach and talk about God’s Law repeatedly, any time, any place. That is how your children learn it. That is how you ingrain it into your mind and heart. David said, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). The key to this is repetition.
In the second passage, Paul tells Timothy, “Practice these things.” The word translated “practice” (μελέτα - meleta) is also translated sometimes as “meditate,” but the more common meaning is to take care, to take pains with, to cultivate, to practice. The text in Hebrews refers to being “trained by constant practice.”
We find out how to do something through written instruction and illustrations, by listening to a speaker, by watching a video. But in an emergency, we might not remember exactly what to do if we only learned about it. To learn to do those things, we need to practice them.
Most of us have been through a fire drill, at least when we were in school. Many have had a tornado drill. Why? Going through the motions helps us to remember what to do. Going to a safe place or meeting point implants the location in our consciousness. In other words, we act it out so we can get it right.
We learn best through repetition. Read the text two or three times. Listen to a recorded message over and over again. Sing a song until everyone close gets tired of it. A repeated practice is a drill. Soldiers drill so they can act as one unit, even in the heat of battle.
Churches need to practice what to do in an emergency. That way we know how to keep members and visitors safe. The three most critical emergency drills are fire drill, tornado drill, and lockdown drill.
The most important part of a drill is planning. Locate safe areas, meeting points, hiding places, etc. Map out how to get there. What are the best evacuation routes? How do we keep too many people from trying to go through the same door at the same time? Who has what responsibilities? How do we communicate? Coordinate?
It is a good idea for the church’s Safety/Security Committee and the Safety/Security Team to walk through the plans. Local emergency response agencies can help in planning. Plan on coordinating the drill with other members of the church’s staff. They will help in getting others to participate, as well as learning their own roles.
Announce that a drill will take place on a certain morning or afternoon. That way people don’t panic when the alarm sounds.
Planning for a drill also covers how to conduct the drill. For instance, when is the best time to have a drill? Who will take part in the drill? We recommend in the Safety Ministry Launch, a good time is during Sunday School, so the children know what to do and where to go.
One drill every institution should have is a fire drill. Important considerations are (1) getting everyone out safely, (2) accounting for everyone, (3) alerting the local fire department, (4) containing a minor fire, and (5) enabling firefighters to get to the fire.
As to containing a minor fire, drills for staff on using fire extinguishers are advisable. The best ones are classes conducted by fire department personnel. Many factories have fire extinguisher drills.
For most of the country, tornado drills are recommended. In many states, they are mandatory for schools. Local emergency services managers can advise the security team, especially in locating safe places in the church. If you have a certified tornado shelter, that’s good.
On the West Coast, some institutions have earthquake drills, but not very often. Whether one is needed depends a lot on the facilities, how earthquake ready they are. Multi-story structures are especially at risk.
The news in recent years highlights the value of lockdown drills, especially for the staff. In the Safety Ministry Launch we strongly recommend talking with parents and youth prior to the drill. They will have a lot of questions and concerns, you will need to answer. Assistance of local agencies is recommended.
More information on emergency drills can be obtained from Sheepdog Church Security in its online Church Safety and Security Guide, downloadable training packets and other materials.