When severe winter weather hits, how can your church ensure the safety for its own property and its employees, members, and volunteers? Depending on which part of the country you are from, 3 inches of snow may be nothing in the Northeast; but may cause majority of the town to shut down in the South. Churches need to be well prepared for winter weather. The following five tips will help churches better cope with winter conditions and learn how to plan and help the community dealing with winter conditions.

Stay up to date with the weather forecast

Winter storms can vary from a couple of hours of snow to severe storms lasting for days. Additional weather conditions such as low temperatures, strong wind, sleet, and ice may also accompany winter storms. It is important to stay up to date with the weather forecast and emergency alerts. Many local emergency departments have early warning notification systems that will provide weather status and assistance in case of emergency. Additionally, it is important to know the different terms used for emergency alerts, such as winter storm outlook, winter weather advisory, winter storm watch, frost/freeze warning, winter storm warning, and blizzard warning. Be sure to pass weather alerts along to church employees, volunteers and members through email or posts on social media to keep people informed.

Ensure church property is appropriately prepared to cope with winter conditions

You may want to open the church as a shelter and warming station during severe weather conditions. Especially in rural areas, churches act as a well-equipped location for community gathering during the cold, and for people to enjoy hot drinks together. To make sure the church building can provide safe shelter, you need to ensure the property is appropriately prepared to cope with severe weather conditions. One of the most important preventions is to protect your church’s pipes from freezing. To do so, expose the pipes to warm air by opening cabinet doors or removing ceiling tiles; keep the faucets dripping in every sink; insulating pipes; and turning the heat up throughout the day to avoid the pipes from freezing and bursting.

Plan ahead and educate your congregation

If your church is acting as a shelter in severe weather, it is important to plan ahead and stock up emergency supplies, educate staff, volunteers, and members with severe weather training. For emergency supplies, include at a minimum three days’ worth of supplies including: clean water, non-perishable food, first aid supplies, hygiene items, infant supplies, flashlights and batteries. Be cautious regarding fire related supplies such as candles since they are likely to start fires especially during dry conditions. Additionally, staff, volunteers and members need to be trained regarding procedures to follow, safety precautions, and how to act when staying in the church as a safety shelter.

Gather volunteers to help with snow shoveling & community outreach

Many people in your community will need help shoveling snow, especially senior citizens who may be unable to move properly and are at risk of falling and injuring themselves with icy conditions. As a church, gather volunteers to help with snow shoveling for those in need. This will allow the community to grow closer while serving neighbors as well. Additionally, your church may want to reach out to the community during the severe weather conditions when everyone is isolated at home. This is especially achievable in a small congregation. A warm phone call from the pastor is a simple act of kindness, but it goes a long way to show warmth during cold weather conditions.

Ensure your church is protected through the unexpected

The unexpected can always happen no matter how cautious you are or how much planning you do to ensure the church and its members’ safety during severe weather conditions. It is important to ensure that your church is covered by proper insurance, such as general property and liability insurance protection, to minimize any financial loss if damage to the property or injuries occur. Additionally, since church records may be destroyed during severe weather, it is important to keep a backup at a different location that includes insurance policy numbers, agents’ and banks contact information.

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