Emergency Operations Planning Step 9: Congregational Drills

Announce to the congregation a week or two before the drill of your intent to conduct an emergency drill. Tell them when the drill will take place, and what is expected of them. This is especially important if this will be the first drill. Unannounced drills should only be performed once the congregation is comfortable with what to do when the alarm sounds. Pay attention to the needs of those who are neurodiverse, have sensory issues, and/or may have had a history of negative interactions with law enforcement and other public safety organizations.

When a congregation is beginning the practice of holding drills, it is best to schedule 3-4 drills in the first year. After the congregation is comfortable with the procedure, yearly drills are generally sufficient. Holding regular drills helps familiarize occupants with the sound of the alarm system and allows your congregation to practice evacuation procedures, so in the event of a real emergency, you have rehearsed the procedures and are aware of what to do.

Expect the first drill to be chaotic. While not minimizing the chaos, help people to expect it and find ways to make the chaos more tolerable.The more the congregation practices, the calmer and more organized they will be. Also consider having a treats/goodies table to be able to celebrate the success of your drills—what better way to minimize the chaos after by providing food, drink, and small toys?