Creating a Church Emergency Response Plan

By their design and purpose, houses of worship are “soft targets.”
Sadly, as recent church massacres have shown, one of the most unprepared, but most
vulnerable to having emergencies, are such “soft target” churches and the churchgoers inside.
In hopes of changing that, here are some basic steps along with a description of the step you can take to prepare for and respond to such emergencies.
These concepts apply to all who want to be prepared IN ADVANCE to successfully deal with such current and future threats.
1.    Recognize the Need
In our case, it began when a toaster caught on fire in a faculty lunch room over two years ago. The response to the fire was less than stellar.
One law enforcement official who witnessed the chaos saw the need for an emergency response plan. He approached the pastor who supported the idea and he began to put together a volunteer safety and security committee.
Given every day safety concerns (floods, fire, hurricanes, storms) the need has always existed. Now that murderers have assaulted church goers, the need is even greater.
2.    Organize a Volunteer Safety and Security Committee

Our volunteer safety and security committee include the pastor, business manager, choir leader, religious education teachers, law enforcement and fire-fighting professionals, information technology professionals, a nurse, retired military and a retired grocery store manager. Each brings a particular expertise and view to creating the emergency response plan. Your committee will reflect your unique needs.
Like any volunteer committee, some people will leave and need to be replaced. Our primary Emergency Response Plan writer changed shifts at work and had to leave. Another member immediately stepped into that role.
3.    Identify the Threats

Conduct a survey of personal, fire, threats and security measures to see what you already have in place and what you need to implement.
         Ask questions and discuss your unique vulnerabilities. Write down all you can think of and address them.
          What if an active shooter approaches?
         What if a bad storm suddenly turns worse and a tornado cloud forming a quarter mile outside the cation building where hundreds of young children, and dozens of religious education volunteers are?
Fire -- what to do and how to do it
Mentally unbalanced individual appearing
Criminal entering the building -- obvious and not so obvious
Weather emergency
Natural disaster
Others unique to your church or area
Granted, you are more likely to face the demands of a snowstorm, flood, fire or an angry spouse than terrorists or an armed murderer, but your emergency response plan must be designed to handle the entire threat matrix.
4.    Writing the Emergency Response Plan

Every Safety and Security Committee member will contribute to the plan, but it is most practical to assign one or two members to author the plan.
Using the survey as a starting point, organize chapters and subsections to cover each area (objectives, definitions, responsibilities, incident leaders, prevention, preparedness, notifications, types of emergencies, emergency contacts, etc.).
Cover all details.
For example, do you need to create signs to identify shelter areas? Signs to point to Evacuation Area A or B?
What will go into the teachers’ evacuation bag (flashlight, roster of children, evacuation procedure steps card, etc.).   
5.    Create an Emergency Contact List
List cell and email contact numbers for local police, fire, medical, tradesmen (tree removal firm, etc.). Also include all staff, teachers, maintenance, volunteers, and others.
Cell Phone Broadcast Message – Create a list of the cell phone numbers of all parents. Use this list to do a broadcast email or text message if weather or an emergency warrants it.
6.    Purchase Any Necessary Supplies
Maybe you need a military-grade medical bag with tourniquets. In our case, we discovered that those in the gym could not communicate with the business manager in the office. So, we purchased radio’s so that everyone could communicate quickly in an emergency.
After identifying the most useful items for the teachers’ emergency evacuation bags (flashlight, roster of children, evacuation procedure steps card, pen, whistle, etc.), you may want to buy those and fill up their bags.
Again, purchase what is useful for your situation.
7.    Train Everyone in the Emergency Response Plan
The pastor, business manager, choir director, teachers, ushers and anyone else who responds to an emergency need to be trained.
The more who are trained the higher the chance you will have a trained person to respond when needed.
We created a PowerPoint we used with each group to give them the fundamentals and their responsibilities.
After training them in class, we ran drills in the building to ensure they knew the plan and carried it out correctly.
8.    First Aid Training and Supplies
Basic first aid saves lives. Teach as many as possible first aid techniques
        Teach Staff, Volunteers, and Coaches First Aid 
         Distribute Basic First Aid Kits – Place larger first aid kits in the large rooms (church, gym, cafeteria, and library) and smaller first aid kits in each classroom.
          Defibrillators – Purchase several.
9.    Sign up for Emergency Apps
Multiple emergency cell phone apps are available. Prepare Me Carroll is my local emergency app. Find those for your area and share them. (https://tinyurl.com/y9yv3npr)
10.  Special Needs: Seniors, the Disabled and Young Children
Seniors, the disabled and young people all have special needs. This is especially in a power failure or other emergency. Using common sense, try to plan for and meet their needs, medical and otherwise.
One tool is WaterBricks (https://www.waterbrick.org/) (www.waterbricks.com)  These bricks can be frozen. This is important to extending frozen food life during a power outage or to keep insulin cold for a diabetic, this can be a lifesaver in the first few hours and days of the loss of power.
Young children also have special needs. Have a few stuffed animals, toys, books and games around to occupy them in an emergency. 
11.  Test the Emergency Response Plan
Run exercises to test your plan. This is critical to get others who were not part of the committee, but who need to know it.
Expect surprise and gaps in your plan that you can only identify in a test drill.
For example, we discovered the three flood lights behind the gym over Evacuation Zone 1 were burned out and had to be replaced. We also found the fire alarms in the old part of the facility were not connected to the fire alarms in the new building.
Also, the younger children quickly and efficiently walked to the evacuation zone. The teen-agers looked at their smart phones and did not find the evacuation zone.
You will find your own surprises to fix with each drill.
12.  Evaluate the Drill
Create an evaluation form for the drill. Have committee members and others monitor the drill and fill out the evaluations. Incorporate any lessons l earned when you update the plan and the training.

These steps to create a church emergency response plan are useful, practical, and mostly free.
If you decide to create one, be aware that your pastor has many competing demands on his time. Safety and security is one of many. Some religious leaders see it as a necessity and support it. Others do not.
I pray that yours sees how important a volunteer Safety and Security Committee is to saving lives, reducing injury, and protecting property, creates one, and that committee creates, tests, and updates its emergency response plan to achieve that holy goal.


Hawaii Ballistic Missile Alert Fail and Fix

We need to gain a deeper understanding of what happened the day over a million Hawaiians were horrified to discover their state emergency operations center falsely informed them a ballistic missile strike was imminent.
The bad news is that with the mega failure of the the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) one employee broadcast of an incoming ballistic missile on January 13, 2018 we suffered a catastrophic failure in our national security.
A good summary of this event can be found here and here.
For an excellent analysis of the technical issues of the false alert, see Here's how Hawii's emergency alert design led to a false alarm on The Verge.
Serious software and hardware design issues also contributed to this disaster. Scott Robertson has an outstanding human-centered design (HCI) article for how to fix that part here.
For what an actual ballistic missile strike on Hawaii would look like, see here.

You Can Survive a Nuclear Ballistic Missile Strike

What if the false incoming ballistic missile warning in Hawaii had been real? As long as North Korea, Red China, Russia, Iran and other nations have missiles, the reality is they could be fired at Hawaii or the continental United States at any time...with 20 minutes warning. We survived the Imperial Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and the jihadi 9/11 attack because we're Americans.
We can survive a nuclear hit and the fallout.
There are so many things you can do to to increase your, and your family's, chances of survival. The Provident Prepper provides an excellent guide to just how many common sense steps there are.
Here, I will only list the top four steps (and a bonus step if you have the resources) to surviving a nuclear strike.

Water: Store a years supply of fresh water in Waterbricks. A daily clean water water is absolutely essential to life. Often people store water in milk jugs that are contaminated or thin water bottles. Both are inadequate for long term storage. Use Waterbricks, 1011 Crown Park Circle, Suite 100, Winter Garden, FL, 877 420 https://www.waterbrick.org/shop/
Food: Store a years supply of packaged food to which you only need to add water to have a nutritious meal. One good source is MyPatriotSupply, PatriotPantry.com in Muncie, IN, 866 229 0927.
Military Grade Medical Kit: You will need to be able to attend to the medical needs of yourself and your family. A military-grade medical kit like those at North American  Rescue are essential. All their products are first rate, but the Combat Activation Tourniquet (CAT) is combat proven and will stop bleeding to preserve a body before it bleeds out. To any father's reading this, save a life. Get a few CAT's for your car and home.
Anti-Radiation Tablets: K103 Anti-Radiation Tablets to block radiation fallout absorption by your body, and especially the thyroid. Fake anti-radiation tables were sold to many in California after the Fukushima disaster. Only order the real ones here: K103-USA.com, 800 537 1339,, Medical Corps, 410 Front Street, #3, OH 45750.
Here is an excellent description from the K103 website about the importance of REAL K103.
"If there is a nuclear event, and you are down-wind, you need to take KIO3 or KI before the radioactive plume reaches you. If you do not have KIO3 or KI at the time of the event, then it is most likely too late to take a thyroid blocker unless the authorities can reach you with the proper dose during fallout conditions. Both KIO3 and KI are thyroid blockers and are used world-wide to help prevent radioactive damage to the thyroid in the event of a nuclear incident. If a nuclear bomb detonates or a nuclear power plant is compromised or has a melt-down, then radioactive iodine is always released into the air and environment. 
Radioactive Iodine (I-131) can destroy the thyroid of humans and animals. Even small amounts of I-131 can cause cancer of the thyroid. By taking KIO3 the thyroid becomes saturated with "good iodine" and cannot absorb the "bad iodine" I-131. 
Yes, animals or pets can take KIO3 too."
Underground Shelter:  You can build your ow,n. Or, for those with the resources, use a company, Utah Shelter Systems, that has done it for years whose owners are experts on nuclear radiation fallout. Even if you can afford them, beware of the companies who have been building luxury shelters for billionaires and millionaires lately. Utah Shelter Systems has been building the best, least expensive, and most trusted shelters for decades.  Contact them if you want a good shelter that works.
Office: (801) 380-2932
Paul: (801) 631-7684
Sharon: (801) 380-2932
Fax: (801)606-7064 
Physical address:
2236 So. 3270 W. #2
West Valley, UT

Civil Defense Redux

Study history. Civil defense has been critical from the beginning of time. If you don't prepare, protect, defend and practice, you don't last long.
For most people in this nation when you mention civil defense, they think of the "duck and cover" training from their childhood.
Civil defense is far more than that.  To get a good understanding of civil defense issues, see Michael Mabee here and here.
For a quick review, see my 2005 Civil Defense Redux post here.
Here is one important quote from that article:
"Disasters happen, and taking steps to be prepared is common sense.
Fires, floods, earthquakes, windstorms, power outages, and now terrorist attacks happen. It's a story as old as the Bible. Do you and your family and neighbors a favor and make sure you are prepared. Even if it never happens, it's like insurance. You never know you need it until you need it and then it is too late to get it. Mitigate and smile."
Sadly, there is nothing to smile about with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency incoming ballistic missile attack.
It never should have happened.
It did not need to happen.
It must never happen again.
As there were no initial reports of panic other than the father who stuffed his children into a sewer manhole in a video that went viral that day, I first wrote "That there was not mass panic, mayhem and accidental injury and death is a miracle." Update: There was.

The Real Cause of the Hawaii False Nuclear Alert

Like other state and local Emergency Operations Centers (EOC's), the people working there are often not hired due to their aptitude, skills and experience in the field of civil defense. Rather, they know someone, usually a politician, who appoints them to the position as a favor.
How do I know this?
In the 1980's I visited multiple EOC's in numerous American states. In places like North Dakota, Florida, California, Florida and Georgia, they were extremely professional operations run by true professionals. Managers and line employees all had decades of experience in emergency management, civil defense, and disaster preparedness.
Then there were the others. It was obvious to me when interacting with them that they were appointed by politicians and did not earn their position. Their work ethic was nonexistent. This was a problem then and it is a problem now.
Proof? The employee who pushed the wrong button refuses as of 1/27/2018 to cooperate with the FCC investigation and STILL has a job.
"We are disappointed however that one key employee, the person who transmitted the false alert is refusing to cooperate with our investigation," said Lisa Fowlkes, bureau chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. "We hope that person will reconsider."
I also taught at the Emergency Management Institute. There, the students who came in from all over the country were first rate, mostly because they were mostly first responders.
But attending those classes there were also the multiple incompetents who had been appointed by politicians.
Now I live in Carroll County, MD and am blessed with an EOC filled with competent, experienced, dedicated professionals. (For more information, see here. )
Tragically, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency did not have competent people on site that day.
The proof is that this false alarm went out at all.
What has been revealed since reinforces the point.

1.  One person alone was able to send out the alert that caused panic state-wide. There was no second check on the alert message being sent. There is a reason the U.S. Air Force always has TWO officers with the key to launch thermonuclear weapons in missile silos and BOTH have to agree and act in concert. So, those most basic two-tiered decision process was not in place.

2.  The alert was sent to many...but not all who needed to receive it. This indicates to me that HEMA did not prepare thoroughly in years past to create a comprehensive list of ALL who needed to be notified. Make a comprehensive list NOW.

3. Those who make HUGE life and death decisions MUST KNOW THEIR PASSWORDS. The Hawaii Governor, the decision maker responsible to immediately reach all the panicked Hawaiian citizens that the alert was false, did not know his password. So, what could have been corrected in seconds or a few minutes took 38 minutes. I kid you not.
"But one Twitter account was deafeningly silent for 17 minutes: that of Hawaii Gov. David Ige. Though Ige was informed by the state’s adjutant general that the alert was false two minutes after it was sent, he waited until 8:24 a.m. to tweet, “There is NO missile threat. On Monday, after he gave the State of the State address in which he avoided the subject of the missile alert fiasco, reporters demanded an explanation for that long silence. Ige’s answer: He couldn’t log in to Twitter. “I have to confess that I don’t know my Twitter account log-ons and the passwords, so certainly that’s one of the changes that I’ve made,” Ige said." (The Washingon Post, Travis Andrews, 1/23/2018.
Here's the reality. Ever since Sully's U.S. Airways Flight 1549 went down on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009 and a guy on Twitter sent out a photo of the plane with passengers hanging onto the wings a half hour before the New York media, people search Twitter for clues in a crisis. Anyone involved in emergency management or civil defense, and especially a governor, must be able to communicate immediately using Twitter. Forgetting your Twitter password is not an excuse. It is a a firing offense.
Immediately after the event when reporters visited the HEMA they discovered yellow Post-It notes on employee computers with the ID and Password in open site. That is such a fundamental security fail. North Korean or Chinese hackers, and even your run-of-the-mill basement dwelling black hat hackers could have used those IDs and passwords to compromise the system. Worse, the HEMA system connects to Pacific Command and other systems that, and other local, state, national and international secure systems could be compromised.

The Government Self Reviews

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other governmental agencies are reviewing what happened at the HEMA.
That's good, but limited.
No doubt they will identify the systemic failures and recommend changes. Some of those changes will happen. But, based on my prior experience, I am not confident that the most important change, the firing of the incompetent employees and replacing them with professional and competent employees, will happen.
And the Federal Communications Commission and Congress are investigating. What will really change in Hawaii's EOC and the other EOC's?
Having read the Presidential 911 Report and remembering how most recommendations to correct that disaster were ignored, I'm not hopeful
The Governor of Hawaii, the same person who employed the incompetent employee who caused this mega national security failure, assures us that this will never happen again. He does the usual...commissions a study and hopes the issue disappears before the next election.
That concerns me. Not having examined the breathtaking failures that let to this event, he has no facts on which to base a statement like that.
For starters, Governor, redesign your control panel. Here is an outstanding analysis of the problem with your current "Alert Button."
Implement this fix (along with hiring competent employees, instituting a  two-tier emergency alert alert process, thorough and vigorous training and so forth) you are well on your way to ensuring that this never happens again.
And for a good primer on civil defense and how it is critical to your family, see here.

We Can Do Better

Here is a link to a worthwhile civil defense primer to help prevent this kind of tragedy in the future. The United States has been blessed to not have a real test of its civil defense capability on the scale of incoming ballistic missiles. In that sense, this Hawaii false alarm can be a catalyst to take action BEFORE it is too late.
I have been involved in civil defense for 40 years, the past 15 on this Poetslife blog. Here are links on this Poetslife blog on various aspects of civil defense that offer policy, practical photo, and procedures to create robust civil defense options for all the threat matrix in America.
Emergency Exercise
Civil Defense Redux
Emergency Exercise Tornado
Emergency Management National Disaster Medical Exercise
Emergency Management Study Scholarships
How to Prepare for a Natural Disaster
Business Continuity Disaster Recovery Plan Outline
How to Handle a Huge Hurricane
CBRNE - Low Probability, High Impact
EPLEX Emergency Plan Exercise
Church Emergency Evacuation and Lock Down Plan
Roll Up ISIS Social Media Weapons
When State Hackers Take Aim at the Power Grid
Church Emergency Plan Template
Emergency Preparedness Expo
Nuclear Weapons Effects
Volunteer Mobilization Center
Idiot's Guide to Disaster Preparedness
Active Shooter
America Rising - Charity
America Rising - Hope
America Rising - Faith
1983 Salt Lake City Great Flood Reflections

Lack of Action by the Trump Administration on Civil Defense

I was optimistic the Trump Administration would see the wisdom of an outstanding American civil defense program, maybe one on par with Switzerland, but so far I have not seen action on that front.
As a member of the Board of Directors of The American Civil Defense Association (TADCA), three times I have sent the Trump White House several issues of the recent issues of Civil Defense Journal of the American Civil Defense Association and not even gotten a note back to say they received them...so who knows.
Maybe one day we can come close to the civil defense program in Swizerland.
The Trump Administration has, at least, offered a brief paragraph in their 2017 national security policy to promote "a culture of preparedness." It's a first step.
For an excellent analysis of how long Hawaii has been unprepared for a nuclear strike, see here.
Michael Mabee, author of the Civil Defense Book, has more faith in the Feds to get it right. On his blog, he summarizes the goal well:
"What we should take from the Hawaii false missile alert? It is unacceptable that in the U.S. we have an emergency alert and “nobody knew what to do.” We must fix this. Building a culture of preparedness – a civil defense culture – is a critical task for the national security of the country."

My Twitter Tweets the Day of the Hawaii Catastrophic Alert Failure

I was on Twitter when I read this Tweet from Emily Batty. After my heart stopped racing, I posted a hope that it was fake news. As the story unraveled that day and the next, the Tweets below show my thoughts.
(Note: Unfortunately, I was not able to copy many of the photos from Twitter to this blog post. I post civil defense items to Twitter if you wish to follow me there.)

  1. Hope this is fake news.

Hawaii releases timeline of what transpired after false ballistic missile warning via y

  1. Hawaii's so-called fix for the Emergency Management alert Fiasco is to close down the system. Wrong. My guess is that office is filled with political hacks sadly.
  1. Hawaii has a creepy voice announcing incoming ballistic missiles. Just lame. They need to record another version of this message with a HUMAN, not a computer, voice. Get your act together,

For anyone who due to the Hawaii ballistic missile threat emergency alert woke up to the need to do civil defense prep, here is one resource:

  1. Hawaii has a creepy voice announcing incoming ballistic missiles. Just lame. They need to record another version of this message with a HUMAN, not a computer, voice. Get your act together,

    1. But has practiced it over and over so the same mistake does not happen again?
    Bruce Curley @brucecurley Jan 15
    Hawaii has a creepy voice announcing incoming ballistic missiles. Just lame. They need to record another version of this message with a HUMAN, not a computer, voice. Get your act together,

  1. Emergency Operations Centers often have political hacks (employees with connections, not skills) working there, as my guess is the case in . Many steps must be taken to correct that fatal error. Here is one:

  1. Hawaii releases timeline of what transpired after false ballistic missile warning via
I said on the day of the fake incoming missile alert, "Hawaii's so-called fix for the Emergency Management alert Fiasco is to close down the system. Wrong. My guess is that office is filled with political hacks sadly." I stand by my statement.

The Hawaiian government released the following timeline of what transpired that day.
Approx. 8:05 a.m. – A routine internal test during a shift change was initiated. This was a test that involved the Emergency Alert System, the Wireless Emergency Alert, but no warning sirens.
8:07 a.m. – A warning test was triggered statewide by the State Warning Point, HI-EMA.
8:10 a.m. – State Adjutant Maj. Gen. Joe Logan, validated with the U.S. Pacific Command that there was no missile launch. Honolulu Police Department notified of the false alarm by HI-EMA.
8:13 a.m. – State Warning Point issues a cancellation of the Civil Danger Warning Message. This would have prevented the initial alert from being rebroadcast to phones that may not have received it yet. For instance, if a phone was not on at 8:07 a.m., if someone was out of range and has since came into cell coverage (Hikers, Mariners, etc.) and/or people getting off a plane.
8:20 a.m. – HI-EMA issues public notification of cancellation via their Facebook and Twitter accounts.
8:24 a.m. – Governor Ige retweets HI-EMA’s cancellation notice.
8:30 a.m. – Governor posts cancellation notification to his Facebook page.
8:45 a.m. – After getting authorization from FEMA Integral Public Alert and Warning System, HIEMA issued a “Civil Emergency Message” remotely.
The following action was executed by the Emergency Alert System (EAS):
1. EAS message over Local TV/Radio Audio Broadcast & Television Crawler Banner.
“False Alarm. There is no missile threat to Hawaii.”
“False Alarm. There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. There is no
missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. False Alarm.”
2. Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA)
“False Alarm. There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii.”
9:30 a.m. – Governor makes initial media notification.
9:34 a.m. – Governor’s message posted to his Facebook and Twitter accounts.