Elizabeth Lee UMC Holds Emergency Drill


The congregation of Elizabeth Lee UMC in Chickamauga where Rev. Jennie Andone serves as pastor held an emergency drill earlier this year.

"We were able to do the drill and actually have fun at the same time by likening it to the drills cruise ships conduct before departure," explained Andone.

The drill was held at the end of worship and required the worshippers at each of the church's three services to process out of the sanctuary and line up in a downstairs hallway, two or three rows across. 

"One woman, who was a first-time visitor, participated in the drill. We teased her that because she took part in the drill she was automatically a member of the church family," Andone shared. "She did come back the next Sunday and eventually joined the church." 

We asked the church's Safety and Security Team chair, LTC Scott Glass, a few questions about the drill.

Q: How did you plan the emergency drill and who helped prepare for it? 
A: The safety and security committee identified the need for a shelter in the event of severe weather. We needed to identify and test places in the main building and The Well Worship Center which is across the highway from the main building. Obviously one could not meet the need of the other.
Q: What type of emergency did you practice for? 
A: This was a tornado shelter drill. It could also work for severe thunderstoms. 
Q: When did you hold the drill and did the congregation have notice about it? 
A: We held the drill the last five minutes of the service at 9:55 and 11:55 in our main building and at 10:55 at The Well. 
Q: How did it go?
A: We came away with a very high confidence factor that we could shelter all worshipers in each building in the best possible place in each building. We timed it and the outcome is that we know we can get everyone to shelter in both buildings in less than 4 minutes. 
Q: What was the congregation's response to the drill?

A: Most treated it as fun. All understood the necessity of it because we took time to brief them on it.
Q: Did the nursery or others outside the sanctuary participate as well?
A: Yes. The participated with good results. The shelter is in the hallway outside the nursery.
Q: Any advice for another church that would like to conduct a drill like this?
A: Here are some things we learned:
  • Have a traffic plan for your worshipers. Walk it yourself and time it. Then construct a briefing for your worshipers. 
  • Have lanterns or flashlights available in the event of interrupted power. Cellphone flashlights can be used, but it's best not to solely rely on them. 
  • Involve the ushers.
  • Consider limited-mobility parishoners with wheelchairs and canes. If you can arrange for seating in the shelter, do so if space permits.
  • Do a drill sooner than later. If you determine you need more space, it is best to know before an emergency.  
  • Consider doing a drill twice a year. If you practice just once a year, the recommended time is before spring tornado season.
  • Have AED and First Aid kits nearby or readily available to the shelter area. 
  • Consider improvements to your shelter area. Our shelter space needed some additions to make it fully functional and as safe as it can be. Doors need to be latched so wind and wind-borne projectiles do not injure anyone if it can be prevented.