ANNA – Local emergency management officials say people should take the same approach as the storied Biblical servant, Noah, did in constructing the ark. Don’t wait, but act now was the message here Tuesday night.
In a dual topic presentation, preparing for disaster situations, and securing church property, gave tips on how to be more secure. The seminar was sponsored by the Northern Exposure Cluster of the Southern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
“Natural disasters occur here in Shelby County such as tornadoes, severe weather, floods, and even earthquakes. And churches have a role to play in helping the public get through the initial stages of disasters,” said Pastor Michael Althauser of St. Jacob Lutheran in Anna.
Cheri Drinkwine, director of the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency and Sam Reed, Emergency Management Specialist, spoke of disaster preparedness. Jennifer Stacey, Account Manager for Church Mutual Insurance Co., gave tips on securing church property.
In a light-hearted look at being prepared before the storm, Drinkwine displayed a carton depicting two dinosaurs sitting on a small island watching Noah’s loaded ark sailing away. The drawing showed the dinosaurs thought the ark “was leaving tomorrow”.
Drinkwine presented a short video about families and friends developing a plan now. The video depicted floods, tornados, severe storms and blizzards and asking when viewers felt they should have talked about being prepared with their families.
The director told the group of nearly 25 people that in times of disaster it’s a “shared responsibility” of all levels of government, emergency response agencies, non-profit groups and individuals.
Drinkwine and Reed spoke of natural and manmade disasters along with terrorism threats. Being prepared to have their lives disrupted from services such as electric, water and gas, along with plentiful food supplies and day-to-day transportation, is of utmost importance, they said.
The pair displayed two “go kits” that are used at the time of a disaster. One filled with items such as a flashlight, radio, batteries, ponchos, etc. Another included “shelter-in-place” items such as food, water, medication, first aid kit, along with plastic and tape to seal windows.
Another idea was to form a communication plan with family members. Knowing where to meet if they need to escape the house quickly was paramount. Having a “go kit” that would include cell phones (with chargers), prepaid phone cards, and a list of phone numbers that would include first responders, family and friends, would eliminate many of the communication issues.
Lastly, Drinkwine spoke of getting involved by learning CPR, first aid techniques, interacting with neighbors and helping those around them that are in need.
Church security methods explored
Stacey said incidents of active shooters entering buildings, along with church theft and unknown people entering the building when closed are on the rise. Her idea was to organize a plan because no congregation is immune.
She said like it or not, the greeters are the first line of defense if an incident occurs due to them seeing everyone that walked in. She said rarely do people ever think of arming them against a threat.
Forming a security team was suggested. Made up of church pastoral leadership, local emergency responders and congregation members would be best. Their first job would be to assess any risk.
Such risks would be the ability to lock doors and windows, access to entryways and exit points, exterior lighting, a secured video system for when someone may be at the church alone. Physical safety concerns including littered hallways, staircases and entry sectors. Uneven sidewalks and worn rugs may cause people to fall.
Next would be a response plan to secure the building and congregation. Documenting such a plan would give everyone an idea of what’s in place if something happens.
Tightening background checks on volunteers would benefit. Stacey said a high percentage of her company’s claims come from improper behavior with children.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility to do their part in making their church safe.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.