If civil authorities require evacuation, you should already have a plan in place for how to safely evacuate your staff, volunteers, and attendees. Special care should be taken in evacuating children, people in poor health, and the elderly. Please see the Fire & Evacuations article for more information on general evacuations.
If the church is functioning as a refuge in severe weather, it is important to have emergency supplies stocked. Include three days’ worth of the following supplies at a minimum:
- first aid supplies;
- clean water: at least a gallon per person per day (American National Red Cross, 2009);
- non-perishable, ready-to-eat food (such as granola bars);
- non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food;
- manual can opener;
- hygiene items such as toilet paper and wet towelettes;
- infant supplies such as bottles, formula, and diapers;
- a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio;
- Flashlights; and,
- extra batteries (American National Red Cross, 2016, “Hurricane”; Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, 2016).
Do not use candles because they are likely to start fires (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2015, “Winter weather”).
Because church records may be destroyed during a severe weather situation, it is important to have an offsite backup of information such as the following:
- insurance agents’ contact information and policy types and numbers;
- church inventory lists;
- bank’s contact information, account types numbers; and,
- telephone numbers of the electric, gas, and water companies. (CDC, 2014, “Earthquakes”)
The American National Red Cross (2016) defines an earthquake as “a sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the earth’s surface” (“Earthquake preparedness”). At this time, there is no warning system to alert people that an earthquake is imminent, but a system is being developed and tested for the west coast of the United States (U. S. Geological Survey, 2016).
During earthquakes, people are most often hurt and injured by falling furniture, such as bookcases, and shattered glass from windows (American National Red Cross, 2016, “Earthquake preparedness”; CDC, 2014, “Earthquakes”). People often think that doors are the strongest part of a foundation, but this is not true. Instead of standing in a doorway, take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture windows (American National Red Cross, 2016, “Earthquake preparedness”).
If people can feel an earthquake while they are sheltering in the church, advise them to drop to the floor, find cover under furniture (such as a desk or table), and hold on to that cover (American National Red Cross, 2016, “Earthquake preparedness”). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2014) has created a good infographic for these steps (“Earthquakes”).
After an earthquake, there may be aftershocks. Advise people to drop, cover, and hold on during these aftershocks, which may come even months after the earthquake (American National Red Cross, 2016, “Earthquake preparedness”). Earthquakes can also cause landslides and tsunamis (American National Red Cross, 2016, “Earthquake preparedness”).
Floods are caused by heavy or steady rain (American National Red Cross, 2016, “Flood safety”). Flash floods occur in usually six hours and in one of three ways: (a) “heavy or excessive rainfall,” (b) failure of a dam or levee, or (c) “sudden release of water impounded by an ice jam” (National Weather Service, n.d., p. 8). Flash floods and floods cause more than 90 fatalities each year (National Weather Service, n.d., p. 1).
Most deaths occur because people do not realize how hazardous the flood can be. Only six inches of fast-moving water is necessary to knock someone off his/her feet and only “two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickups” (National Weather Service, n.d., p. 8).
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