I regularly tell people that there are more things that can happen at your church then someone coming to cause harm with a weapon. One of the things that regularly happens at churches all over America are medical incidents. A medical incident could be a variety of situations from a skinned knee in the children’s department to a heart attack in the worship center and every other incident that you can imagine. Here in Colorado we have often seen visitors pass out in the service because they are not used to the altitude and have not stayed hydrated.
I was involved in a medical emergency this last weekend at my own church. We have trained well on what we need to do, how we communicate with each other, and what we need to do to get EMS to the incident as quickly as possible, if necessary. There is some training that should be mandatory for everyone serving on the team, and medical emergency is one of those trainings. You can’t prepare for every instance that may happen, but if you have a foundational plan of action you can be better prepared and have the right mindset of what needs to happen regardless of the medical emergency that happens.
I know that I am not going to be able to cover every way that you can be prepared. But what I do want to cover is some of the things that can help you be better prepared or to at least start the thought process of what preparation looks like for you. Some of this goes beyond the security team and can incorporate you children’s workers, ushers, greeters, staff, etc.
To start with, do your team members and other key ministry people have CPR/AED/First Aid training? Do you know how long it is going to take to get medical help to your facility? It could take several minutes and for some situation, minutes could be the difference between life and death for someone. This doesn’t matter if you have medical persons as part of your team. There are far more reasons for everyone to be trained than what I can cover here today.
Trauma Bag: Make sure that you have trauma bag(s) situated in key places on your property. You want to have the necessary items in this bag that you know how to use and be able to deploy it easily in the event of either a medical emergency or a major trauma event until medical professionals can arrive. What you DON’T want to have is those “boxes” that have very little in them to effectively handle much more than a skinned knee. Those type of “boxes” are great to keep around for minor cuts and abrasions so that the larger bag is not breached for those times.
AED: There are still many churches that do not have an AED. This life saving piece of equipment is essential that you have available. If you have a large campus or multiple buildings, it might be worth having more than one available. This is one of those items that you want to have readily available so that you do not have to take up too much time getting the necessary equipment. These devices can be costly to purchase and maintain and in most communities, there are lease options through a variety of companies.
Radio’s: I know that this is something that you could take for granite, but honestly it is amazing how many churches are relying on other forms of communication that are inadequate or ineffective in real life situations. Being able to communicate with the rest of the team for such things as getting the trauma bag, getting the AED, or getting the necessary medical response is vital when there is an emergency happening.
Tourniquets: This is a life saving tool that is important to have readily available. Leviticus 17:11 states that life is in the blood. How true that is! If an accident or an act of violence happens on your church property that is causing the life to drain out of someone, you want to make sure that you have something that is going to keep that from happening. There are people who think that a belt or something similar is going to work. There are so many reasons why they are not effective that we can not cover all of that here. There are a variety of tourniquet types to choose from and everyone has an opinion on what they feel is best. I am not going to enter that debate but would recommend doing your research to see what is best for you.
Good communication is key to getting the right help and the right resources to the right location as quickly as possible. For any emergency the number one concern is the welfare of the person that is sick or injured. There was one day that we had to lift a guy out of the pew and onto the floor that was having a heart attack. As we were working on the man, there were people in the auditorium that were shushing us. Even though it might be an inconvenience to those around, don’t lose focus and don’t move someone that can’t move on their own.
Make sure that the person working on the person having a medical issue is not the one that is talking with 911. Deputize someone if necessary, to handle that if you don’t have another security person at that time. It is also important to deputize people to do crowd control if necessary. I have seen people get moved that should never have been moved. Move the people around them and take care of the ones that need it.
Finally, let’s talk about the staff of your church. There needs to be conversations with you worship people, pastors, elders, and any other key staff on what their role is in the event of a medical emergency. Does the pastor keep teaching? Is the worship team/choir going to keep going if there is a medical emergency in the auditorium? Their role might include communicating with 911 and/or crowd control. Maybe even getting EMS to the right place as quickly as possible. These are just a few questions to get you thinking about conversations that may need to happen. I talked with several churches this week that indicated that they have all had medical emergencies that have caused them to assess what they did and what they could learn.
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