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Emergency Procedures

Last Updated on February 26, 2015

When an emergency occurs, the immediate safety of those present may depend upon the proper response.

When an emergency occurs, the immediate safety of those present may depend upon the proper response.

Expectations

Safety & Security

Emergency

For that reason, the Apostolic Faith organization has developed emergency procedures for the most common types of crisis situations. Staff and volunteers should be prepared to take appropriate action when such a situation arises.

Accident

When an accident occurs:

  • If the injury requires urgent medical attention, immediately call 911 or other appropriate emergency responder.  Be prepared to give information concerning location, number of people involved, and the nature of the injury.
  • If a service is in progress, notify the head usher or Church Emergency Responder (CER). That person will:
  • Ascertain whether it is advisable to call 911 if that has not already been done.
  • Conduct a preliminary assessment of the injury.
  • Provide basic first aid or other intervention measures as necessary until emergency responders arrive on scene.
  • Look for an emergency medical identification card on the injured person, or check with the spouse or immediate family member for such information.
  • If the injured person is a minor, instruct someone to contact the parent/guardian.
  • Delegate someone to be in the parking lot to direct emergency vehicles and personnel coming to the scene.
  • Avoid accepting liability or making a commitment to pay expenses. While it is appropriate to express concern for the injured party, no comments should be made regarding fault, negligence, or responsibility.

After the injured person has been appropriately cared for, the church representative who handles the situation should take the following steps:

  • Inform the pastor and/or building maintenance supervisor where the accident took place and the circumstances which caused it. If the mishap was caused by a building defect, rope off the area to prevent further accidents. No repairs should be made until the insurance adjustor has completed any necessary investigation.
  • Fill out an Accident/Incident Report form.
  • If an insurance claim results, notify the headquarters office, relaying all available information including copies of any legal papers, demands, or notices received regarding the incident. All injuries involving insurance should be reported to the headquarters office within twenty-four hours, if possible.

Building Evacuation

A building evacuation is mandatory whenever a fire alarm sounds, and building occupants should exit immediately. Other situations may also arise which necessitate evacuation of the premises. In such cases, it will be important for all staff and volunteers to take the following steps:

  • Stay calm, and encourage those under your supervision to do so.
  • Follow the instructions of authorized safety personnel if any are present.
  • Evacuate the building using the designated evacuation routes, keeping existing groups together.
  • Close the door if the last person to leave an enclosed area. Do not lock doors; others may need to use the exit.
  • Assist disabled persons in your immediate vicinity if possible.
  • Do not use elevators to descend from upper floors; use stairwells. If smoke or heat is encountered in a stairwell, proceed to another stairwell and continue evacuation to ground level and outdoors.
  • If smoke is encountered, bend over and take short breaths through your nose as you move toward the exit.
  • Feel doors before opening.  If the door is hot, do not open it but use another exit. If the door is cool, open it slowly, keeping behind the door in case it must be closed quickly to protect from inrushing smoke or fire.
  • Exit the building and go to the designated safety zones in the church perimeter or parking lot, away from the building.
  • Do not congregate in or near building exits, driveways, or roadways.  Keep these areas clear for emergency response crews.
  • Do not go to your vehicle or attempt to move it from the parking lot.
  • Do not return to the building for any reason until an “all clear” is issued by authorized safety personnel.

Civil Disturbance

At times, churches are targets for demonstrations or disruptive actions. Social activist organizations or even hate groups occasionally attempt to spread their message by staging events that provoke confrontation and attract media attention. These actions may be orderly and peaceful. However, if a demonstrator or group of individuals comes onto church property for the purpose of intimidating, harassing, or threatening occupants, or disrupting proceedings, individuals inside the building should:

  • Notify the usher or CER if a church service is in progress. That person will inform the pastor or minister in charge to determine the next step. If no minister, CER, or usher is present and the situation is threatening in any way, call 911 or the police. Law enforcement agencies are trained in strategies to defuse volatile situations, including protests, demonstrations, and riots.
  • Do not interact personally with the demonstrators.
  • Encourage children, youth, and others in the vicinity to remain calm and avoid confrontation.
  • Continue normal operations if feasible under the circumstances.
  • Ushers or security personnel should secure the church by locking exterior doors. If time permits, they should lock desks, file drawers, and storage areas as well.
  • If the demonstrators are aggressive or threatening in any way, stay away from doors and windows.
  • If the demonstrators attempt to enter the building, do not try to physically halt their entry.
  • If the situation is tense in any way, do not leave the building until law enforcement personnel are on the scene and able to ensure a safe exit.

Disruptive Person

If a person enters the church while a service is in progress and purposefully causes a disturbance, acts irrationally, or threatens physical harm, notify the head usher or CER. They are instructed to take the following steps:

  • If the person is obviously intoxicated, on drugs, or agitated, engage the person in conversation to assess his/her condition, and deter entry to the sanctuary, if possible.
  • If the disruptive person is already in the sanctuary when the disturbance begins, attempt to calm the individual and persuade him to leave the sanctuary.
  • Determine whether it would be prudent to suggest that congregation members seated near the individual move to another part of the sanctuary.
  • If the disturbance continues, escort the disruptive person from the sanctuary.
  • If the disruptive person refuses to leave or agitation persists after removal from the sanctuary, assess whether it would be prudent to call 911 for help.

After the situation has been defused, the usher or CER who handled the situation should make a record of the event using the Accident/Incident Report Form, and giving a brief description of what transpired. This record should include the names of any individuals who took part in subduing the disruptive individual.  Keep this record in the church files in case there is later legal action.

If threats are made or there is any indicator that the disruptive person intends to return at a later time to retaliate, the church may impose a restraining order prohibiting the individual from coming onto church property or contacting staff or members of the church.

Earthquake

Those who are inside the church when an earthquake occurs should take the following steps:

  • Take shelter under cover, such as a pew, desk, or table. Individuals in the sanctuary who cannot get under a pew should kneel between them.
  • If it is not possible to take shelter under furniture, kneel next to an interior permanent wall away from windows, overhead light fixtures, and tall pieces of furniture.
  • Bend your head close to your knees. Protect your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  • Stay in place. Do not run outside or use stairways or elevators.
  • Stay under cover for at least two to three minutes after the shaking stops, as there may be aftershocks.
  • Once the quake has subsided, treat or assist injured people in the vicinity as your level of expertise permits. Do not move anyone with an injury unless they are in immediate danger.
  • Do not be surprised if the fire alarm or sprinkler system activates.
  • If damage is extensive, avoid going into or through areas where structural damage may have rendered the building unsafe.

Those who are outside the church when an earthquake occurs should take the following steps:

  • Move into the open, away from buildings, fences, trees, playground equipment, utility wires, and street lights if possible.
  • Kneel or sit on the ground and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  • Stay in the open until the shaking stops.
  • Those who are traveling in a church vehicle when an earthquake occurs should:
  • Pull over to the side of the road, away from overhead power lines, trees, and overpasses. Set the parking brake.
  • Instruct passengers to stay in the car until the shaking stops.
  • If a power line falls on your vehicle, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire.

Fire

If you detect a fire, take the following actions:

  • If a service is in progress, notify the head usher or CER, who will initiate evacuation of the building if needed. If no usher or CER is in immediate proximity, the individual discovering the fire should activate the nearest fire alarm. He should then:
  • Call 911 giving the church name, telephone number, and location, along with the general area in the building where the fire is located.
  • If the fire is extinguishable, obtain a fire extinguisher and attempt to put it out. If in doubt, evacuate.
  • If the fire is beyond the point of a safe attempt to extinguish it, isolate the fire by closing doors to the area before evacuating.

If a fire alarm sounds while you are in the building, take the following actions:

  • Follow the evacuation procedures described in the Procedure Guidelines for your position/role in the church.
  • If you have no designated responsibility for others, evacuate the building immediately by the designated evacuation route for the area you are in.
  • Assist disabled persons in your immediate vicinity if possible.
  • Do not use elevators to descend from upper floors; use stairwells. If smoke or heat is encountered in a stairwell, proceed to another stairwell and continue evacuation to ground level and outdoors.
  • If smoke is encountered, bend over and take short breaths through your nose as you move toward the exit.
  • Feel doors before opening.  If the door is hot, do not open it but use another exit. If the door is cool, open it slowly, staying behind the door in case it must be closed quickly to protect from inrushing smoke or fire.
  • Exit the building and go immediately to the designated safety zones in the church perimeter or parking lot, away from the building.
  • Do not congregate in or near building exits, driveways, or roadways.  Keep these areas clear for emergency response crews.
  • Do not go to your vehicle or attempt to move it from the parking lot.
  • Do not return to the building for any reason until an “all clear” is issued by authorized safety personnel.

Hurricane/Tornado

The official hurricane season in the United States runs from June through November, but historically, the most active storms occur from August through October. Ministers and church staff who are in hurricane/tornado zones should be familiar with the National Weather Service terminology regarding storm conditions: a tornado watch is given when conditions are ideal for a tornado to form, while a tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or has touched down, and shelter should be sought immediately.

Individuals who are in the church when a hurricane/tornado warning is given should take the following steps:

  • Move away from windows. If you have time, close window blinds or shades to minimize damage from flying glass and debris.
  • Warn others, encouraging them to get into a safe area immediately.
  • Seek shelter on the lowest floor of the building—in a basement if possible. Move away from the building perimeter and into an interior room or hallway away from windows and large expanses of unsupported ceilings. The safest areas are interior hallways, small rooms opposite to the approach of the storm, bathrooms, or closets.
  • Assist disabled persons in your vicinity to get to a safe area.
  • Do not use elevators.
  • Do not go outside to your vehicle.
  • Stay in place until an official “all clear” is given.

Lockdown Procedure

If a violent person is causing or threatening deadly harm in the building, individuals not in the immediate vicinity should flee the building if this can be done safely. If flight is dangerous or impossible, take the following steps:

  • Immediately move into a securable area such as an office or Sunday school department.
  • Lock the room or department as quickly as possible and stay away from windows.
  • Call 911 or other appropriate emergency numbers if you can do so without disclosing your hiding place.
  • If time permits, close blinds or curtains and turn off all lights and audio equipment.
  • Remain quiet.
  • Put as many barriers between yourself and the intruder as possible.
  • Do not huddle together in groups—occupy separate locations as much as possible to make it more difficult for a violent intruder to cause multiple injuries.
  • Prepare to defend yourself, including arming yourself and others with heavy objects.
  • Do not sound the fire alarm or initiate a building evacuation, as this could place others in the vicinity of the intruder as they attempt to exit.
  • Do not leave the secured area until notified that it is safe to do so by the police or church security personnel.

Medical Emergency

When a medical emergency occurs:

  • If the person requires urgent medical attention, immediately call 911 or other appropriate emergency responder.  Be prepared to give information concerning location and the nature of the emergency.
  • If a service is in progress, notify an usher, minister, or Church Emergency Responder (CER). That person will:
  • Conduct a preliminary assessment of the individual.
  • Ascertain whether it is advisable to call 911 if that has not already been done.
  • Provide CPR or other intervention measures as necessary until emergency responders arrive on scene.
  • Look for an emergency medical identification card on the ill person, or check with the spouse or immediate family member for such information.
  • If the ill person is a minor, instruct someone to contact the parent/guardian.
  • Delegate someone to be in the parking lot to direct the emergency vehicles and personnel coming to the scene.
  • Provide medical assistance and support until professional help arrives. Then allow responding units to take control of the situation.

If no usher, minister, or CER are present, the activity leader should assume control of the situation and follow the above procedure, while refraining from offering any assistance only trained medical professionals should give.

When the immediate crisis has been dealt with appropriately, the person who was in charge at the scene should fill out an Accident/Incident Report form.

Missing Child

If a child is missing from the church premises while a service is in progress, notify an usher, who will inform the pastor and/or CER. If the child is missing from a Sunday school area, notify the Sunday school department leader, who will inform the pastor, CER, or head usher of the situation. That individual will:

  • Institute a search, involving other staff members as needed.
  • Notify the parent/guardian of the child of the situation and the action being taken.
  • Determine if and when 911 help should be summoned; if the situation is a suspected kidnapping, law enforcement officials should be contacted immediately.
  • When the child is found, notify the searchers that the situation has been resolved.

If a child is missing from a church-sponsored, offsite activity, the following procedure should be followed:

  • Notify the activity leader immediately.
  • The activity leader will alert staff members, providing a description of the missing child.
  • Commence search.
  • Notify the parent/guardian of the child of the situation and action being taken.
  • The activity leader will determine if 911 help should be summoned. If the situation is a suspected kidnapping, law enforcement officials should be contacted immediately.
  • When the child is found, notify the parents and searchers that the situation has been resolved.

Power Outage

Weather, accidents, and storms can disrupt electrical service to the church. If a power outage occurs during a service, congregation members should be instructed to stay where they are and wait for instructions.

  • If a power outage occurs when an activity is taking place or you are working in the church building, take the following steps:
  • Do not call 911 except in the case of an emergency.
  • Assess the extent of the outage. If the electricity is out in only one area of the building, it may be a blown fuse or a tripped breaker. In that case, report the outage to maintenance personnel.
  • If the local neighborhood is dark, notify your power company of the loss of power, and ascertain the expected duration of the outage.
  • If outage continues, help co-workers or individuals under your supervision to move to a location with natural light or emergency lighting, or to exit the building.
  • Check restrooms and other adjacent areas for individuals who may be trapped in a dark room (frightened children, individuals with special needs, etc.)
  • Unplug personal computers, non-essential electrical equipment, and appliances.  Turn off non-critical equipment and lights.

Violent Intruder

If a violent person enters the church while a service is in progress, individuals who are caught in proximity should do one of the following (options are listed in descending order of effectiveness):

  • Run. Escaping from a violent attacker is generally the best option if you can do so. If you decide to run, do not run in a straight line. Keep objects between you and the violent person as much as possible. When out of the immediate area, summon help and warn others.
  • Hide. Get down on the floor and take cover under pews, chairs, or other objects. Violent attackers tend to notice upright people more readily.
  • Play dead. If you are unable to run or hide, you may choose to play dead, especially if other victims are around you.
  • Fight back. Confronting the attacker is dangerous. However, this could be an option if you are physically fit or have an opportunity to disarm the intruder when he is looking another way.
  • Individuals who are caught by the intruder and are not going to fight back should follow his directions and not look him in the eyes.
  • When law enforcement arrives, obey all commands. This may involve individuals in the vicinity being handcuffed or made to put their hands in the air. This is done for safety reasons, and once circumstances are evaluated by law enforcement, they will give further directions.

Individuals who are in the building but not in the same area as the intruder when an alert is given should take the following steps:

  • Flee the area if you can do so safely.
  • If you cannot flee safely, go into a securable room or department, lock the door and turn off the lights.
  • Stay quiet.
  • Occupy separate locations as much as possible to make it more difficult for a violent intruder to cause multiple injuries. If feasible, hide in a location not visible from the hallway.
  • Put as many barriers between yourself and the intruder as you can.
  • Prepare to defend yourself in any way possible, including supplying yourself with heavy objects.
  • Remain hidden until notified that it is safe to leave by law enforcement or church security personnel.

Conclusion

As a worker in the Apostolic Faith Church, you have a role to play in nurturing people’s spiritual well-being. In an emergency situation, you may also have a role in protecting their physical well-being. We ask that you take both of these responsibilities very seriously. Please prepare yourself by familiarizing yourself with all of the information in this handbook, and by carefully abiding by all the procedures and guidelines established by this organization.

Again, we thank you for your willingness to be a part of this work. May God continue to bless you as you labor for Him.

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The Apostolic Faith Church is a worldwide Christian organization, with headquarters in Portland, Oregon. As a Trinitarian and fundamental church, our doctrinal beliefs are the basic Bible truths, including the definite experiences of salvation, sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

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