Emergency Planning and Management
Emergency Management Planning
Emergency Management is a fundamental area of risk that churches must address. Often we limit emergency management to only include the risk of fire. When it comes to the safety of our churches however, we need to consider a broader set of potential emergencies. For example; an emergency or disaster can be of natural causes (hurricane, storm or flood), a medical emergency, an act of terrorism, or an intruder. If these things happen, knowing what you should do saves lives.
‘AS 3745 – Planning for Emergencies in Facilities’ – sets the benchmark for emergency management in Australia. Key aspects of emergency management for churches includes:
– Emergency Procedures Manual
– Wardens – identified and trained.
– Evacuation Diagrams
– Evacuation Exercises
Knowledge in the event of an emergency can make the difference between life and death. Assuming that everyone will know what to do is not enough. It takes proper preparation to be as prepared as possible for the worst of circumstances. These requirements also apply to church offices, op-shops, and other buildings that are the responsibility of the church.
Emergency Planning Committee
The Emergency Planning Committee (EPC) is formulated by an organisations leadership group as the key body to oversee the planning for emergencies. The EPC should be formulated with representatives of key stakeholder groups using the facility. They should be empowered to make decisions and allocate resources as required to implement the plan. The Chief Warden should also be a member of the EPC, as it is their role to lead the implementation of the emergency plan.
The EPC make practical determinations such as:
- Size and configuration of the Emergency Control Organisation (ECO)
- Appointment of an emergency management consultant
The EPC should meet at least 12 monthly.
Being a warden is more than just wearing a hat or vest. Wardens require skills and knowledge training to effectively respond to the different types of emergencies quickly and appropriately. Under the guidelines of AS 3745, wardens must complete training every six months in order to maintain readiness. This may include specific skills training like how to use a fire extinguisher or how to deal with a particular category of emergency. The Chief Warden and their deputies should also conduct additional specialist training in order to meet the additional needs of their roles. Training must also have elements specific to the facility.
Occupant training is a helpful step towards smooth and effective response to emergencies. This should take place every 12 months or after significant changes to the layout of a building. It normally would take the shape of a briefing by the Chief Warden outlining the basic emergency procedures and then an activity like an evacuation or lockdown.
Exercises are a crucial part of assessing the practicality of your emergency plan. Testing to see how your evacuation plan works can give you important feedback on where issues may occur if a mass evacuation is needed. Utilising the services of an emergency management specialist as a third part observer may also give valuable insights into your processes.
Evacuation Diagrams are displayed throughout a building in order to aid the evacuation of occupants in the case of an emergency, particularly if wardens are not available.
AS 3745 sets out the basic requirements of evacuation diagrams in Australia. While it is possible to create them yourself, it is worth considering using an emergency management consultant to ensure that the diagrams meet the standard and are located correctly throughout the building.
Wardens need to be easily identifiable to the occupants of a building and to responding emergency services. Ensuring that wardens are identified with the correct colour for their role enables easier actions from responding emergency services, so they know who to ask about what’s occurring.
It is important too that wardens are equipped with items such as torches, masks, first aid kits, pens, and clipboards. Warden apparel and accessories is available from RLink.
Evacuation kits are particularly helpful for facilities where children, the disabled, or elderly may be frequently located. They may contain essentials such as water, food, and medicine, but can also store emergency contact details or items to aid in the evacuation.
Regular audits of the emergency plan should be conducted to ensure its accuracy and effectiveness. These are often completed by the Chief Warden but may utilise the services of an emergency management consultant.
AS 3745 should be used as a guide in all compliance audits, along with other resources from bodies such as WorkSafe, police, fire authority, or other government body.
Risk assessments should be completed under the principles of ISO 31000, and encompass both the physical infrastructure and the activities of the building. They can be used as guides to determine what resources are needed and can be allocated to effective control measures. It may be determining whether you have adequate fire equipment for the type and use of your kitchen, or the ability to lock down your building with the currently installed locks.