So last Sunday in our church was a little … different.
There was smoke, bright flashing lights, and loud (read: deafening) noises.
No, it wasn’t our worship band (though a good guess). It was the fire alarm that went off just prior to second service.
In the last two years, we’ve had a few false alarms, but not this time.
The alarm was caused by smoke entering our lobby, and the source of that smoke turned out to be an air handler that we believe overheated.
What happened next?
Our security team cleared the building and insured everyone’s safety.
Our congregation exited calmly yet quickly (45 seconds to clear the entire church! That’s 800-900 people of all ages).
People were kind and understanding despite the cold. Parents were reunited with their children within 10 minutes. The fire department showed up fairly quickly and was able to blow out the smoke and verify the building was safe, allowing student ministry to meet Sunday night.
So the whole operation went smooth, but only because we were ready for it.
Throughout the entire process, both security and KidMin volunteers were very visible and appeared in total control which translated into peace and calm for the rest of the people.
Later that day, I had fun reading different parents’ Facebook posts about the morning.
I THINK THE COMMENT BELOW REVEALS THE “SECRET” OF WHY EVERYTHING WENT SO SMOOTHLY.
I thought I’d use this experience to share with you two key elements that helped us stay sharp and prepared.
1) Emergency Policies and Procedures. They are in our training manuals. Every new volunteer gets them and we go over them in the beginning of every school year and summer. This way everyone is in the know.
2) Classroom Cheat Sheet. See the picture below.
This IS our “secret sauce.”
We have this simple cheat sheet in every single classroom.
Policies and Procedures are great, but when emergency strikes and your brain goes into a “freeze” mode, you need something that is concise, clear, and right there!
That’s exactly what this cheat sheet is.
Putting it together—just a few bullet points per page—forced our team to really sift through all the options and lengthy sentences, eliminate everything that’s not absolutely necessary, and end up with short, laser-focused directions.
Having it in every classroom also allows us to encourage our volunteers to periodically go over different pages to make sure the plan of action is fresh in their mind. It only takes 30 seconds of their time before class to go over one of the flaps, but it’s these 30 seconds that can make a huge difference in the time of emergency.
If you would like an editable copy of our cheat sheet, it’s included in the Emergency Kit which you can download HERE.
Oh, and if you want to know how we deal with lice (because they do come to church, you know), head over HERE.