Preparing for Disaster in your Church

Firefighters battle a fire at the Calvary Baptist Church in Emporia, Va., on Saturday, July 19, 2014. [Photo courtesy Calvary Church]

Firefighters battle a fire at the Calvary Baptist Church in Emporia, Va., on Saturday, July 19, 2014. [Photo courtesy Calvary Church]

When Poplar Springs Baptist Church suffered a fire in 2004, “people were aggrieved and stunned,” church member Bill Korman told the Religious Herald. At Parham Road Baptist Church, a roof collapse kept church members from worshipping in their facility for months.

Church leaders and members can work together to ensure the recovery from a disaster is not crippling to the church. Here are a few areas to consider:

Utilize Resources in the Community

From the fire marshal to your insurance provider, the resources available to your church can help you make preparations.

Your locality’s fire marshal can provide best practices to ensure your church facility minimizes fire hazards. Walking through the building with a fresh set of eyes gives feedback to leaders, facility managers or other key decision makers in regards to the latest advances in fire prevention, potential hazards in your facility and other concerns of which you need to be aware.

Contact your insurance provider for tips about preventing damage in the event of a disaster, and determine any changes that should be made to your policies for significant changes, renovations or additions to your facility or equipment. You can also photograph significant areas of the church in order to more easily prepare claims with the insurance company should the need arise.

Your Church, Your Home

Your church may not be your place of residence, but you can treat it as such when it comes to potential hazards.

Many of the little things you maintain in your home should be cared for in the church as well: update batteries in smoke detectors, make preparations to avoid frozen pipes during severe cold spells and regularly walk through and around your facility with an eye toward potential hazards. Note any abnormalities or trouble signs that appear and work to mitigate future problems.

Whether you have a facility manager or a properties committee, help these individuals understand their role in preparing for and working to prevent unnecessary crises. Educate church members, too, because preparations are the responsibility of every member.

Safe Keeping

Like at home, your church has important documents. Depending on the church’s past, this could include historical documents, legal documents and current insurance policies.

A safe or fire-rated lockbox would be a great place to store these items, but you’ll also want to consider water (from flood or fire), smoke and heat when you choose an appropriate place. Consider whether these documents need to be accessed frequently or if they could be stored in the possession of a church officer or a safe deposit box.

Today, many documents are stored digitally in addition to paper copies. Many services are available to convert and store a small number of documents or back up your entire computer system.

For Poplar Springs and Parham Road, good has come from the tragedies. Pastor Stephen Crane of Poplar Springs, who came to the church after the fire, told the Religious Herald, “I have had people come to me and say that the fire was absolutely the worst thing that ever happened to our church — and the best thing that could have happened to our church.”

There are a number of stories of Virginia Baptist churches experiencing tornadoes, floods, fires and more. While not every disaster or crisis can be prevented, the impact can be lessened significantly by making adequate preparations.

Learn more about Virginia Baptist Disaster Response and find out how you can join response efforts across North America. 

Contact our office to learn more about responding as a church in your community.