An online preparedness guide and consulting for church leaders. 

How to Write an Emergency Operations

Plan for a Church Emergency Team

Plan Components

Your plan should include the following basic components.

Executive Summary

The executive summary gives leadership a brief overview of: the purpose of the plan; the facility's emergency leadership policy; authorities and responsibilities of key personnel; the types of emergencies that could occur; and where response operations will be managed.

Emergency Management Elements

This section of the plan briefly describes the facility's approach to the core elements of emergency management which are:

  • Direction and control
  • Communications
  • Life safety
  • Property protection
  • Community outreach
  • Recovery and restoration
  • Administration and logistics

These elements are the foundation for the emergency procedures that your facility will follow to protect personnel and equipment and resume operations.

Emergency Response Procedures

The procedures spell out how the facility will respond to emergencies. The emergencies that you want to develop these plans for come from the Risk Assessment that was completed earlier. Whenever possible, develop them as a series of checklists that can be quickly accessed by senior leadership, department heads, response personnel and staff.

Determine what actions would be necessary to:

  • Assess the situation
  • Protect staff, congregation, visitors, equipment, vital records and other assets, particularly during the first three days
  • Get the church back up and running.
  • Specific procedures might be needed for any number of situations such as bomb threats or tornadoes, and for such functions as:
    • Warning staff and congregation
    • Communicating with personnel and community responders
    • Conducting an evacuation and accounting for all persons in the facility
    • Managing response activities
    • Activating Prayer ministry
    • Activating and operating an emergency operations center
    • Fighting fires
    • Shutting down operations
    • Protecting vital records
    • Activating Care and compassion ministry
    • Restoring operations

Support Documents

Documents that could be needed in an emergency include:

Emergency call lists -- lists (wallet size if possible) of all persons on and off site who would be involved in responding to an emergency, their responsibilities and their 24-hour telephone numbers

Building and site maps that indicate:

  • Utility shutoffs
  • Water hydrants
  • Water main valves
  • Water lines
  • Gas main valves
  • Gas lines
  • Electrical cutoffs
  • Electrical substations
  • Storm drains
  • Sewer lines
  • Location of each building (include name of building, street name and number)
  • Floor plans
  • Alarm and enunciators
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fire suppression systems
  • Exits
  • Stairways
  • Designated escape routes
  • Restricted areas
  • Hazardous materials (including cleaning supplies and chemicals)
  • High-value items

Resource lists -- lists of major resources (equipment, supplies, services) that could be needed in an emergency; mutual aid agreements with other companies and government agencies.

In an emergency, all personnel should know:

  • What is my role?
  • Where should I go?

Some facilities are required to develop:

  • Emergency escape procedures and routes
  • Procedures for staff who perform or shut down critical operations before an evacuation
  • Procedures to account for all staff, visitors and contractors after an evacuation is completed
  • Rescue and medical duties for assigned staff
  • Procedures for reporting emergencies
  • Names of persons or departments to be contacted for information regarding the plan

The Development Process

The following is guidance for developing the plan. As you plan, answer these questions:

  • How do we keep our church safe and secure?
  • How do we prepare the congregation for the Prayer-Care-Share emergency focus of our church during crisis and disaster?
  1. Identify Challenges and Prioritize Activities
    1. Determine specific goals and milestones. Make a list of tasks to be performed, by whom and when. Determine how you will address the problem areas and resource shortfalls that were identified in the vulnerability analysis.
  2. Write the Plan
    1. Assign each member of the planning group a section to write. Determine the most appropriate format for each section. Establish an aggressive timeline with specific goals. Provide enough time for completion of work, but not so much as to allow assignments to linger. Establish a schedule for:
      1. First draft
      2. Review
      3. Second draft
      4. Tabletop exercise
      5. Final draft
      6. Printing
      7. Distribution
  3. Establish a Training Schedule
    1. Have one person or department responsible for developing a training schedule for your facility. For specific ideas about training, refer to Step 4.
  4. Coordinate with Outside Organizations
    1. Meet periodically with local government agencies and community organizations. Inform appropriate government agencies that you are creating an emergency operations plan. While their official approval may not be required, they will likely have valuable insights and information to offer.
    2. Determine State and local requirements for reporting emergencies, and incorporate them into your procedures.
    3. Determine protocols for turning control of a response over to outside agencies. Some details that may need to be worked out are:
      1. Which gate or entrance will responding units use?
      2. Where and to whom will they report?
      3. How will they be identified?
      4. How will facility personnel communicate with outside responders?
      5. Who will be in charge of response activities?
    4. Determine what kind of identification authorities will require to allow your key personnel into your facility during an emergency.
    5. Determine the needs of disabled persons and non-English-speaking personnel. For example, a blind employee could be assigned a partner in case an evacuation is necessary.
    6. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a disabled person as anyone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself or working.
  5. Maintain Contact with Other Churches
    1. Communicate with other churches to learn:
      1. Their emergency notification requirements
      2. The conditions where mutual assistance would be necessary
      3. How churches will support each other in an emergency
      4. Names, telephone numbers and pager numbers of key personnel
      5. Five‐mile radius church call list also the PIO need to be identified.
      6. The chain of command and the spokesperson command chain established.
      7. The PIO is identified.
      8. How the Chapter will support the churches Incorporate this information into your procedures.
  6. Review, Conduct Training and Revise
    1. Distribute the first draft to group members for review. Revise as needed.
    2. For a second review, conduct a tabletop exercise with leadership and personnel who have a key emergency leadership responsibility. In a conference room setting, describe an emergency scenario and have participants discuss their responsibilities and how they would react to the situation. Based on this discussion, identify areas of confusion and overlap, and modify the plan accordingly.
  7. Seek Final Approval
    1. Arrange a briefing for the Senior Pastor/ chief executive officer and senior leadership and obtain written approval.
  8. Distribute the Plan
    1. Place the final plan in three-ring binders and number all copies and pages. Each individual who receives a copy should be required to sign for it and be responsible for posting subsequent changes.
    2. Determine which sections of the plan would be appropriate to show to government agencies (some sections may refer to corporate secrets or include private listings of names, telephone numbers or radio frequencies). Distribute the final plan to:
      1. Chief executive and senior leadership
      2. Key members of the company's emergency response organization
      3. Company headquarters
      4. Community emergency response agencies (appropriate sections)
    3. Have key personnel keep a copy of the plan in their homes. Inform staff about the plan and training schedule.
    4. Consolidate emergency plans for Church Security, Prayer, Care and Share and Emergency Preparation better coordination.