6-Step Severe Weather Emergency Action Plan


According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there are more than 1,000 tornadoes annually nationwide.* Other severe weather includes lightning, hail and straight-line winds that can cause serious damage. So it’s wise to be prepared. In the event of a severe storm that strikes during a worship service, church members will look to church leadership and staff for directions. Have a severe weather emergency action plan in place before the sirens blare.

Here are six steps to help your congregation weather a severe storm.

Step 1: Identify Safe Shelters

Identify the safest place for your people to ride out a storm.

  • Select a basement or subterranean space. If that’s not an option, choose an interior hallway on the lowest level of your property, away from doors and windows.
  • Avoid structures with high or free-span roofs, like a church sanctuary or gymnasium.
  • If your church campus is comprised of more than one building, designate shelters in each building.
Step 2: Form a Severe Weather Preparedness Team

Assign a team of church employees and volunteers to help during severe weather. Assign responsibilities to:

  • Escort people to designated shelters in the event of a storm warning.
  • Post evacuation routes and procedures in highly visible areas throughout the property.
  • Assist with children and people with disabilities.
Step 3: Practice a Severe Weather Drill

Having a storm drill during a church service may seem disruptive, but it can help church members build confidence and point out weak spots where extra planning might be needed. Before the drill, educate your staff and congregation about your emergency plan and explain what will happen and what you need them to do.

Step 4: Monitor Storms

A severe storm can evolve rapidly, so stay on top of the weather.

  • Have a weather radio in case cell phone service and electricity are interrupted .
  • For large churches with multiple safe zones, determine how volunteers from each zone will share information and under what conditions an all-clear signal will be broadcast.
Step 5: Ensure a Safe Release

When the severe weather has passed, help the congregation exit safely.

  • Staff and volunteers should sweep the buildings, parking lots and areas around the church to ensure it is safe to exit safe zones.
  • If the storm leaves behind debris, such as broken tree limbs, redirect people around the obstacles.
Step 6: Reunite Families

Your severe weather emergency action plan should include steps to help parents reunite with their children.

  • Determine if you want parents to pick children up in their individual rooms or have all the children in a central area.
  • Staff and volunteers from the safe zone areas should share this information with parents who may have sheltered with them.
  • Designate a central area where family members and groups can reunite.
We’re Here for You Before and After the Storm

Developing a severe weather plan can help keep your congregation safe. But what if your property suffers storm damage? Get tips to prepare your property and reduce your financial impact. For more information, contact us at InsuranceSolutions@GuideStone.org or (214) 720-2868, Monday through Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CT and Friday, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Readers should use this article as a tool, along with best judgment and any terms or conditions that apply, to determine appropriate policies and procedures for your church's risk management program.