Emergency Preparedness for Houses of Worship
Natural hazards such as tornadoes or flooding and manmade hazards including fires or cyberattacks can occur with little to no warning. We encourage our County’s houses of worship to be prepared for all types of emergencies and disasters to not only protect their facilities, but to help protect their congregations as well. Houses of worship can start by following the four steps of emergency preparedness including Be Informed, Make a Plan, Build a Kit, and Getting Involved.
Be Informed: Be aware of the potential hazards, both natural and manmade, that may occur in your community. Learn what protective measures to take before, during, and after an emergency. Here are a few ways to be informed:
- Use the Houses of Worship Security Self-Assessment to help determine weaknesses in your building and find ways to improve physical safety and security for the building and the people inside it.
- Learn more about potential hazards and how to prepare for them by requesting a preparedness presentation for your staff and/or congregation.
- Sign up to receive free emergency alerts via text, phone call, or email directly to your mobile device at alertannearundel.civicready.com.
- Subscribe to the Anne Arundel County Police Department’s weekly Worship Watch newsletter, providing examples of terrorist and criminal activity against houses of worship and links to free security-oriented seminars.
Make a Plan: We encourage houses of worship to assess the needs of their facilities and congregation to create a tailored plan for emergencies.
- Check out the DHS Developing Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship for tips on creating a plan for your specific needs.
- Think about how you might shelter in place with your congregation or how you would evacuate them from your facility.
- The Anne Arundel County Police Department offers Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training, with practical recommendations on what to do in case of an active assailant event. The Crime Prevention Unit also schedules physical security assessments of religious facilities, with written recommendations specific to each facility. To schedule either, contact the Crime Prevention Unit at [email protected] or call 410-222-SAFE.
- Plan for how you would stay in communication with staff and your congregation before and after a disaster.
- If your facility has a school or provides childcare, be sure to plan on how you will reunify children with caretakers should you need to evacuate or shelter in place for an incident.
- Check your insurance coverage and take a look at your financial preparedness.
Build a Kit: Building an emergency kit ensures you have the necessary items on hand before disaster strikes to be self-sufficient for at least 3 days.
- Think about what items you may need to continue services in the event of a disaster such as a power outage.
- Build your kit over time adding items like non-perishable food, water, flashlights, extra batteries, a first aid kit, and hygiene items.
- Collect those items and store them in an easily accessible area.
Getting Involved: The final step is to get involved in emergency preparedness.
- Include your staff and congregation in your emergency plans and practice together.
- Involve children in the process to help reduce stress and anxiety during emergencies.
- Check on vulnerable neighbors, especially those with chronic illness or access or functional needs.
- Host a First Aid, CPR/AED, or Stop the Bleed Class for your staff or congregation.
- Volunteer for a local disaster relief group.
- Stay situationally aware: If you see something-say something! Call 9-1-1 if you note something amiss and let the professionals investigate.
- Faith Based Information and Sharing Organization (ISAO)
- Secure Community Networks (SCN)
- Faith Based Community Resources
- Department of Justice Protecting Houses of Worship Forum
- CISA SHIELDS UP
- CISA Active Assailant Security Resources
- CISA The Power of Hello Guide for Houses of Worship
- CISA Threat De-escalation Series