Does your church have an Emergency Response Plan or Emergency Action Plan? If the answer is yes, do you address the unique needs of children in your plan? Whether you have a plan or not you must be prepared to respond to emergencies occurring within your children’s ministries. There are many different types of events that can occur as we minister to the children God has blessed is with.
There are several elements to our plan that need to have specific responses for those under eighteen years of age. We should have a fire and evacuation plan for all buildings where children may be ministered too. In the event of a fire alarm activation, fire, natural gas leak, power outage, natural disaster, man-made disaster or other phenomenon we must be able to evacuate the children safely. We must have alternative locations we can take those children to, whether it is an unaffected building a safe distance from the event or a specific outdoor area. We need to plan to take our check-in and out system with us. We need to be able to account for every child. We need procedures that designate someone to check restrooms, hallways, and other common areas for those who may not be with their assigned group or class. We need to think about how we are going to reunify families, which we will discuss in another post.
Do you have a plan for medical emergencies affecting those under eighteen on your property? How do you handle a child having an anaphylactic reaction to an allergen? How do you share children’s allergies while still respecting their privacy? These are additional concerns you need to address in your plan. Children who have Epinephrine Pens or Inhalers should be asked to bring them and keep them with them everywhere they go on campus. Who is first aid, CPR, AED, and Stop-the-Bleed trained in your ministries? Do you have licensed medical providers in the church who are willing to assist when needed for medical emergencies? How will these immediate responders be summoned to provide assistance? These are all questions that must be considered and answered in the best way possible for your specific ministry.
What actions do you take if a teacher suddenly notices a child missing from the class? How do you handle noncustodial parents who want to remove their child from your care? You must have plans to search the immediate and surrounding areas in the event of a missing child. You need to quickly determine which child is missing and where they were last observed. How do you determine the child was not picked up by a parent or guardian? Who do you call if someone other than an authorized person comes to pick up a child? What do you tell the person insisting you turn over their child?
These are just some of the questions you need to ask as you develop and update your emergency response plans. Children are our most valuable gift from God and we must be prepared to meet their needs in the event of an emergency.