Safety begins with planning and practice. And that is just what many churches including Milpitas & Fresno Sunnyside did. Adventist Risk Management (ARM) partnered with the North American Division as they invited churches everywhere to conduct safety drills on Safety Sabbath. ARM provided full “how to” guides for both fire and active shooter drills, a planning checklist, and many other resources – hoping every church would learn the importance of safety drills.
Pastor Antonio Cano met with his Milpitas church deacons a month earlier to formulate a plan. “Given the climate in society, we felt we were completely unprepared should something happen,” Cano admitted. “Almost anywhere we go, they have plans and procedures should something happen.”
Their planning committee assumed a random location for a ‘fire’ to start. They analyzed the floor plan and decided on three exits. Just before the sermon on March 25, deacon Osman Tablang took the microphone.
He told the congregation of the emergency and gave exit instructions according to plan. Milpitas Fire Department was on hand to assess the effectiveness of their plan.
Eight deacons and deaconesses took their positions to assist in evacuating the congregation. In fact, nearly 200 people safely vacated the building in 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Immediately following the drill, the captain of Milpitas Fire Station No. 2 gave tips to the entire congregation on areas needing improvement such as reducing the bottleneck at one of the exit doors.
Fresno Sunnyside Church
A fire safety drill was also conducted at the Fresno Sunnyside church. Pastor Dennis Ray, along with safety organizer Marla Hartman, laid out a plan. Sabbath School teachers were given warning about the upcoming drill and instructed their classes on the proper procedures.
The Beginners Sabbath School teacher, Donna Fitzgerald explained to the children that they’d be having a fire drill. “You will hear a loud sound, but do not be afraid,” continued Fitzgerald. “We are going to make a line and exit the door together.” For some it would be their first fire drill. “At first, the noise scared him,” recalled Bianca Rivera, one 3-year-old’s mother. “But then he saw everyone line up, and he did too.”
“After having participating in Safety Sabbath, I am confident that our congregation will be able to act quickly and orderly in the event of a fire,” assured Ray.
In addition to promoting church and school safety, the Conference encourages annual self-inspections, appointing a Church Safety Officer, and ongoing safety training. “We, at the conference office, are doing our best to practice what we are asking our churches to do,” said Norma Maynez, associate director for Risk Management. “We promote safety through awareness, education and practice of safety procedures and drills.” Plus the Safety & Risk Committee meets quarterly to assess and update Central’s Emergency Action Plan, which will help each church create their own Action Plans.
By Sue Schramm