The wise see danger ahead and avoid it, but fools keep going and get into trouble. ~ Proverbs 22:3, NCV
By now you may be suffering from the media fatigue that is inevitable with a crisis like that which occurred in Aurora, Colorado on Friday. Television, radio and internet venues seek to boost their ratings by examining a disaster of any sort from every possible angle and repeatedly asking “Why.” While thousands are killed every year as society deteriorates, we tend to focus on unexpected situations where many are killed. Regardless, as leaders, we need to get ahead of the situation.
Does your ministry have a crisis plan? What would happen if a stranger entered your event or respite care intending to do harm? Do you keep copies of signed forms both on and off site for emergency access? Are you keeping contact information for participants, their doctors and their primary caregivers current? Would you know how to shelter participants to minimize harm or loss of life? How or where would you evacuate participants to if the situation called for it? What arrangements have you made for those who are visually impaired, in use of mobility devices or hard of hearing? Do you have any sort of grief-counseling or post-trauma counseling you would make available to your ministry participants after a tragedy?
If you are anything like me, the first time you look at those questions, you feel a bit overwhelmed. The concept is fairly simple, but so easily overlooked. Yet, sitting down and making formal arrangements can leave a leader not knowing where to start. Fortunately, there are many good resources available as a jumping off point for your planning. I first became aware of some of these planning tools during this years Accessibility Summit at McLean Bible Church. One of the workshops covered personal preparedness. And the resources from the Inclusive Preparedness Center in Washington, DC are a fabulous place to begin your planning. Of course, the US government also provides good, taxpayer-funded tools available via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Their links range from family tools to articles geared towards care providers, employers and first responders. Another good go-to website has been assembled by the American National Standards Institute Homeland Security Standards Panel. The links organized on this page look at every angle of citizen preparedness, including a special section for the disabled, schools, and emergency resources.
No matter what you use to begin a plan, rehearsal of your strategy is one thing that experts stress. Scheduling time with your team to do an emergency simulation will help you find the kinks in your arrangements or protocol. It will also tuck away in the brain of your workers what to do when there is any sort of crisis, so that they will work far more effectively and efficiently in a real disaster.
In the final analysis, there may be little anyone can do to prevent horrific tragedies that pop up every so often like the one that did in Aurora, Colorado. But getting ahead of any disaster proves to be far wiser and can certainly minimize injury and loss of life.