This catastrophic event, and other happenings, have caused
families and community leaders every where to stop short and think
hard about if we are prepared enough.
Severe weather, natural disasters and other life-threatening events
can occur in any given moment with just minutes to respond.
The Jefferson Street Church community has numerous members involved
in fields related to emergency response. A year ago, a team began
meeting weekly with church staff and leaders. The team helped create
a new Emergency Operation Plan (EOP) for use in public assembly
places in Logan County.
The new EOP addresses various potential emergency situations that
could occur when people are assembled in public places, and it
provides protocol responses. It has been approved by and is on file
the Logan County Emergency Agency and the state of Illinois EMA.
The EOP, a gigantic six-inch thick packed notebook, the JSCC team
simplified events and response instructions into a nine-page
Emergency Operation Guidelines for JSCC use. The EOG defines actions
to be taken during specific events and has a map of the church
building with designated shelter areas.
The next step was to train with JSCC staff and inform the church
body about the various plans of action.
On Sunday, October 19, JSCC hosted an afternoon family event to
explain the plan to its members. The Safety Awareness Family Event "S.A.F.E."
began with food in the church fellowship hall at 3 p.m. and was
followed by a period of family fun and games.
One of those who came for the presentation was JJ Simpson. Simpson
serves as a worship leader. He is also a technology expert. He
wanted to be familiarized with the plan so that he would know what
he should be doing that would be of best assistance during an
emergency. Simpson operated the PA system during the presentation.
At 4:30 p.m. everyone gathered into the worship center for an
introduction to the plans.
In prayer, church leader Neal Windham thanked God for the work and
vision of the men who worked hard for so long on the plan - "to
pioneer a comprehensive safety instrument for people of God in this
place, and way beyond this place."
Logan County Emergency Management Agency director Dan Fulscher began
the presentation and introduced the planning team, Curt Schleich,
Kirby Rogers, Kendall Caruthers, Bucky Washam, Jay Bennett and Mike
Irwin; each of whom brought their knowledge and professional skill
to portions of the newly completed plan.
Fulscher explained how this safety plan was created. Pointing to a
table stacked with large notebooks that he said these were just some
of the many operation plans his office has created and maintains.
The plans are all approved by the state. There are EOP's for safe
schools, operating the 911 dispatch center, operating the state
resources center 'EMCOM', hazardous materials response,
communication and many more. Applicable parts of these and other
plans were incorporated into the new public places safety plan.
The condensed JSCC Guidelines addresses emergency responses to
natural events such as severe weather or earthquake. It also
individually addresses other types of emergencies -- fire, hazardous
material threats, safety and security. Communications is defined in
various situations and over-all.
Fulscher pointed out one of the most valuable components for the
church is that having a plan would help provide reassurance for
parents when they bring their children to the church.
The plan's response measures include security during reunification
between parents and children after an event. Just like family home
fire safety plans, this plan includes meeting places after an
emergency, and identification processes before handing over a child.
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Fulscher summarized a variety of emergencies -- weather, fire,
hazardous material in the outside air, earthquake, intruder --
and briefly explained how the plan launches decision-making by
church staff and leaders; how those decisions would be
communicated to those present in different portions of the
church building; where people should move to and when; how and
where adults would be reunified with children.
Curt Schleich, as an elder in the church and communications
technology specialist for Logan County Emergency Management,
facilitated the planning.
Kirby Rogers, a former school superintendent for District 27,
reviewed what to do if an earthquake would occur. The instructions
are short and immediate: Drop - Cover - Hold. Kirby said that the
primary aim is to protect the head by getting under any structured
object like a chair or table. Outdoors advice is to stay away from
things that can fall on you -- buildings, electrical wires and
Kendall Caruthers reviewed day-to-day use and storage of hazardous
materials in the church. There could also be a temporary chemical
cloud in the area and persons would be sheltered in the church.
Bucky Washam, formerly the city of Lincoln Fire Chief is currently
EMCOM director of state resources. Washam led the fire safety
Jay Bennett participated in an "Intruders" training class. Plans are
in place if a suspicious person would be observed; individual
leaders have been trained and when possible a team would we involved
in separation, risk assessment, communications; and finally, whether
to make a call for lockdown or evacuation.
The latest advisement when an active shooter is present is to take
one of the following actions immediately: Run - Hide - Fight.
Mike Irwin took charge of reviewing how to make the building more
secure. During the week doors are now kept locked; the maintenance
room and certain other areas are kept locked; keys are being better
kept track of, and go only to authorized personnel.
Following the review of action plans, the assembly broke for an
actual emergency exercise. Groups went out to where they would
commonly be located in the church and waited for the alarm to be
sounded, and then moved to designated safety places.
Fulscher thanked children's minister, Laura Moore for her assistance
and Patrick Doolin of Integrity Data for printing the multi-paged
guidelines handout when there were problems printing it at the last
minute. Doolin was also one of those who spurred the development of
the plan when his family was away from home during a severe weather
Looking to the future, Fulscher acknowledged that everything
changes. The plan would need to be reviewed regularly, "As soon as
the ink was dried on the plan, it needed updated." An annual family
day is planned to keep the church body informed of changes.
Fulscher said that the plan would be presented this Spring to other
churches and organizations. Each group can employ the Emergency
Operation Plan strategies. The condensed Emergency Operation
Guidelines written for Jefferson Street would be available to tailor
a plan to need. EMA representatives would even help to map out
shelters for other groups at their locations.