While church shootings are statistically rare, other emergencies – fires, weather related damage or disaster, medical events– are more likely. The most recent estimation by Rev. Aaron Payson, one of the founders of the UU Trauma Response Ministry, assumes less than 20 percent of UU congregations have a broad safety plan in place to address emergency preparedness or the possibility of an active shooter scenario. Many of those policies were written after experiencing a traumatic or emergency event. And our congregations across the country have experienced all types of these events:
- Colorado UUs dry out from epic flood
- As fires spread in California, church doors stay open
- Hurricane Katrina Coverage
- The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church Shooting
In all these examples, each congregation was in a different place in terms of preparedness. Our congregations are made up of people. “THE CONGREGATION” can’t respond in a time of emergency if the families, the people, aren’t taken care of.
There are three levels of preparedness that congregations should consider:
- The congregation’s plans,
- The individual members plans, and
- Responding to the overall needs of the wider community.
Congregations can take some basic steps in assessing and preparing for emergencies to be better able to serve their people and communities during and after a disaster. While we cannot prepare for every possible “what if” scenario, we can prepare for the more likely, high impact risks specific to the region or area. "Assessment of the likelihood and impact of various risks in our specific situation lets us prioritize our preparation efforts. (For instance): If you live near a railroad track you might be at higher risk of a train derailment and chemical spill. If you live along the ocean, high tides and storms might be a big problem. In the foothills you might face a greater risk of wildfires or mudslides. Preparing for the more likely, high impact risks automatically increases our readiness for most of the lower risk scenarios.” (Disaster Preparedness Guide from the Disaster Resource Alliance)
With a clear picture of both our risks and resources available, we can see the gaps between what we have and what we need. Now we can start planning how to fill those gaps, either through acquiring needed resources or forming mutual alliances that allow us to work together for the common good.