Protecting Your House of Worship from the Threat of Terrorism

// Eric Spacek, JD, ARM on Tuesday April 11, 2017

This past weekend, two churches in Egypt were bombed during Palm Sunday services. The bombings killed more than 40 people and injured more than 100. Although these tragic incidents took place thousands of miles away, they serve as an important reminder of the ever-relevant threat of terrorism by violent extremists, and why it’s important to take this issue seriously.

This article, originally posted in June 2016, helps raise awareness of the threat of terrorism and the steps your organization can take to protect staff and members.

As places of public gathering without extensive security protection, churches and houses of worship are generally considered “soft targets,” much like shopping malls, restaurants, stores and theaters. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines a soft target as “a person or thing that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially to military or terrorist attack.”

Even in times of tragedy, your church doesn’t have to feel helpless against threats of terrorism. A few key actions – education, assessment and planning – can help your organization prepare for potential threats.

Education
Understand the threat of terrorism, which may vary by the geographical location of your facility. In addition to mass shootings, terrorist attacks also may include explosive devices, chemical or biological threats, nuclear or radiological dispersion devices, and cyber-attacks. General information on the terrorism threat is available on the Department of Homeland Security’s website. While terrorist attacks with chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological agents are possible, the likelihood of such events occurring at your facility is not high. Thus, it makes sense to broaden your plan to consider the range of emergency situations that could take place.

Assessment
An important starting point is to identify the potential hazards that your organization faces and assess your vulnerability to them. While the threat of terrorism is real, be sure to also assess the common emergency situations that your organization is more likely to face, such as medical emergencies, fires, extreme weather and natural disasters, as well as an active shooter situation. Consultation with your local law enforcement agency may be beneficial in conducting a security assessment of your facility. Many agencies are willing to assist churches in such an assessment and provide recommendations for improvement in security.

Planning
After the assessment is complete, develop an emergency plan for your organization to address the various threats identified in the assessment. In your plan, consider actions such as evacuation, shelter, lockdown, and how you will communicate with your congregation. Consider your security plan and the level of protection that you feel is appropriate for your location. For some churches, that may include the presence of off-duty law enforcement officers, armed professional security or trained volunteers.

GuideOne recommends two resources that can help your church prepare for such an event: GuideOne’s Sample Emergency Action and Recovery Plan for Religious Organizations and the federal government’s Developing High Quality Emergency Operation Plans for Houses of Worship

The recent terrorist attack serves as reminder for all organizations to be vigilant. Pay attention to the people entering and exiting your facility before, during and after services and special events, and heed this direction from the Department of Homeland Security: “if you see something, say something” to authorities. Additionally, take time to revisit your organization’s emergency plan and prepare for the various disaster scenarios that your church could potentially face.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Space, JD, ARM is the Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Before joining GuideOne, he served as Minister of Operations for a large Methodist church in Raleigh, N.C., and was a liability litigation trial attorney in Washington, D.C.

Safety Plan Essentials

// Katie Rynard on Tuesday December 6, 2016

If an armed intruder entered your facility, would you know what to do? What if someone fell on a slippery walkway outside your building and threatened a lawsuit? Some situations are out of your control, but many aren’t. That’s why comprehensive safety plans are a huge asset.

Thinking about how to handle possible scenarios your organization may face and developing preventive measures can significantly reduce risk. “It’s important to have planned responses, not knee-jerk reactions, for emergency situations,” says Eric Spacek, director of risk management and loss control at GuideOne Insurance.

With the new year just around the corner, now is a good time to create a safety plan or revisit an existing one. “Factor in current events and evolving risks when working on your plan,” Spacek says. Another smart move? Use the EFFECT® framework – and considerations for each topic – to organize your plan and cover your bases:

Emergency preparedness — You can make scary situations more manageable by planning for crisis scenarios such as arson and fire, church violence, medical emergencies, severe weather and disaster relief.

• Develop a crisis communication strategy that includes media outreach, facility closing announcements and emergency phone numbers

• Train leaders, staff, ushers, greeters and anyone who works with children on emergency response

Offer first-aid, CPR and other emergency training to staff, volunteers and members, and make first-aid kits accessible

• Clearly mark all exit routes and conduct regular evacuation drills

Facility safety — Inside and out, a well-maintained facility will help you avoid costly claims and damage due to slips and falls, frozen pipes, building use by outside groups and more.

• Regularly inspect walking surfaces and correct fall hazards such as debris, cracks and potholes

• Create facility usage policies to hold outside users of your organization accountable

• Always lock doors and windows when the building is unoccupied

• Hire licensed and/or certified professionals to inspect electrical, fire prevention, and heating and cooling systems and make repairs

Financial safeguards — Set guidelines on how to collect, count, deposit and report finances.

• Train ushers on how to take the collection and keep it safe. Lock up cash.

• Maintain separation of duties between the ushers, counters, financial secretary and treasurer

• Schedule an impartial, scheduled audit of your books

• Track and log all accounts and keep financial records secure

Employee and volunteer safety — Training and communication are essential to protecting staff – and your organization – from on-the-job liability.

• Create an employee handbook with employment policies and practices

• Train anyone who works in your kitchen on safe food prep, serving and sanitation procedures

• Establish a social media policy that defines what is acceptable and the consequences for violating rules

• Articulate policies that define what constitutes sexual harassment – and that harassment will not be tolerated

• Require that volunteers sign liability release forms before participating in higher-risk activities such as disaster relief efforts and mission trips

Children and youth safety — Protecting children starts with staff screening and continues with providing a safe environment for learning and play.

Carefully screen employees and volunteers

• Hold all activities for children in central, highly visible locations

• Train all employees and volunteers on how to properly work with children and adolescents

• Gather completed consent forms, such as “Participation Authorization” and “Consent to Emergency Medical Treatment,” from parents

Regularly inspect areas of the church used for a nursery or toddler care to identify potential hazards

Transportation safeguards — Help members, employees and volunteers get to and from their destinations safely with regular vehicle maintenance and approved, experienced drivers.

• Pre-select and screen all drivers

• Conduct pre- and post-trip inspections on all vehicles

• Equip vehicles with safety equipment and accident reporting kits

• Communicate trip safety procedures to participants before each departure

• Require that seat belts be worn at all times

For more safety resources, visit GuideOne.com.

 

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard is a Corporate Communications Specialist at GuideOne Insurance.

When she's not at work, she enjoys decorating, traveling, trying new restaurants and spending time with her husband, daughter and dachshund puppy.

Revisiting Your Child Safety Plan

// Lindsay Taylor on Tuesday August 16, 2016

It’s that time of year again; back to school. This means that after-school clubs, fall sports practices, Sunday school and religious education classes are back in swing. While children are stocking up on new school supplies, it is important for the leaders of your organization to revisit your child safety plan.

While running your organization, it is extremely important to keep the safety of children in mind and plan for the unexpected. What will you do if severe weather strikes? Or an intruder? How will you protect the children from harmful situations? These are all questions that can be answered by having an up-to-date and accessible child safety plan.

A child safety plan can include many different items ranging from simple first-aid procedures to policies that ensure the security of children. As you revisit your plan, verify that these procedures are up-to-date and also add any new policies or procedures that you believe could be beneficial. Below are a few things you may include in your plan:

Emergency Evacuation Procedures – Ensure you have exit routes established for all areas, classrooms or offices in your building. Educate all staff and volunteers on these routes so they know exactly where to go in the event of an emergency. Post graphics of these routes in each room, and make sure all exits are labeled properly and are easy to find.

Severe Weather Procedures – Identify safe, easily accessible shelter areas where people can go when severe weather strikes. Make sure these areas are clearly labeled and that staff and volunteers know exactly where to go in an emergency. Include these locations with your emergency evacuation graphics. Additionally, make sure you have basic emergency supplies on hand. 

Intruder Procedures – Establish safe places for children to hide and inform staff of steps they may need to take, such as locking classroom doors and turning off lights. Additionally, having a system for alerting everyone of what is going on as well as when it is safe again is extremely important.

Sexual Misconduct and Abuse Prevention – To protect children from an unwanted situation, it is important to have policies in place to prevent one from happening. Some examples of policies include:

  • Run background checks on all staff.
  • Always have more than one adult in the room at a time.
  • Keep events and activities in open, visible areas.
  • Inform your staff and children about signs to look for prior to a situation taking place.

First-Aid Procedures – With children around, an accident is likely to happen. Ensure you have first-aid policies in place as well as a fully stocked first-aid kit. It may also be beneficial to have all of your staff go through a first-aid and CPR training course prior to working at your organization.

Keeping the children of your organization safe should be a top priority. An up-to-date child safety plan can help you be more prepared in an emergency situation. You can find more resources for keeping children safe by scrolling through the numerous Safety Resources on GuideOne.com.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor is a Marketing Coordinator for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on marketing communications and the co-op program.

In her free time, she enjoys dancing, running and spending time with friends and family.

Q&A With Eric Spacek: Pokémon Go and Your Church

// Eric Spacek, JD, ARM on Thursday August 4, 2016

Our original post about Pokémon Go has garnered a lot of feedback and commentary. The original question was:

I found out last night that something near the north side of our church building is in the Pokémon Go game. I noticed a number of people driving into the parking lot, then driving into the north most parking section, and then leaving. This happened about six times over the course of 20 minutes. It has been repeated many times since then and we have VBS this week, so our parking lot has been full. Does this pose any sort of liability risk to us?

Eric Spacek, GuideOne’s Risk Management and Loss Control Director, has provided some additional information on this growing concern.

Property Removal – Churches and any other property owners have the option to remove their property from the Pokémon Go game. If you wish to do so, you may fill out a Removal Request Form online.

Criminal Activity – There have been reports of criminals targeting groups of users who congregate at places where the Pokémon creatures may be captured. Be attuned to this if your property appears to be a gathering place.

Wireless Network – Game players who come onto the property may seek to access your public wireless network. Unfortunately, there are risks associated with providing an open wireless network. Review our recent blog post on Cyber Security for more information on how to protect your wireless network.

Did this topic spark a question regarding church safety or policy? Send your question to connections@guideone.com and look for the answer in an upcoming blog post.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Space, JD, ARM is the Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Before joining GuideOne, he served as Minister of Operations for a large Methodist church in Raleigh, N.C., and was a liability litigation trial attorney in Washington, D.C.

Protecting Your Church from Wildfires

// Ellen Wade on Tuesday July 26, 2016

Statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) show that in 2012, nearly 68,000 wildfires occurred in the United States, burning more than 9 million acres. Of these fires, 14 percent were started by lightning while 86 percent were caused by humans.

Wildfires can occur in forests, grasslands and brush, and need fuel, heat and oxygen to occur. A wildfire can get fuel from vegetation, buildings and other materials; heat can come from lightning or human sources, and wind supplies the oxygen. During a wildfire, flaming embers, radiant heat and direct contact with the fire can all pose threats to your building. Windblown flaming embers pose the greatest threat as these can be carried up to one mile ahead of the actual flames.

Know Your Risk for Wildfire
The National Interagency Fire Center provides a four-month forecast for wildfire potential that is updated on a monthly basis. If your church or church camp is located in wildfire prone areas, it is critical to take steps to lessen your exposures to this risk. To see these reports and to find out the wildfire forecast for your location, click here.

Controlling Fuel Sources
The most effective method to protect your building from a wildfire is to control the fuel sources around your building:

  • Clear leaves, needles and other debris from the roof, eaves and gutters, as well as decks, porches and the building’s foundation.
  • Limit the vegetation (grass, plants and trees) up to 200 feet from the building. For complete details on this, refer to the Firewise Guide to Landscape and Construction booklet.
  • Relocate any above ground propane tanks to at least 30 feet from any buildings.
  • Move stacked wood at least 30 feet from any buildings.

Controlling Human Ignition Sources
You can’t control Mother Nature and lightning-ignited wildfires are going to occur. However, we can control the human causes of igniting wildfires including:

  • Do not have a campfire on dry, windy days. Never leave campfires unattended. Keep water and a shovel on hand to extinguish the fire completely before leaving, making sure everything is wet and cold to the touch.
  • Dispose of smoking materials properly. 
  • Avoid setting hot chainsaws, or other gas-powered equipment that will have hot mufflers, in dry grass.
  • Any gasoline-powered engines, including lawn mowers, trimmers, chain saws and tractors, should be provided with spark arrestors.
  • Charcoal grills only should be used over fireproof surfaces, and grilling should not take place on dry, windy days.
  • Spark arrestors should be placed over any flue openings on chimneys and stovepipes with openings less than 1/8 inches.
  • Store gasoline and other flammable liquids in UL-listed fire cans.

Additional Items
Consider taking these additional precautions when dealing with wildfires:

  • Close all windows during a wildfire. If windows are closed, embers cannot enter the structure.
  • Use 1/8-inch mesh metal screen beneath porches, decks, floor areas, and the structure itself. Any openings to the roof and attic used for venting should be protected as well.
  • Seal any roof openings that are not used for venting and enclose the eaves on your roof.
  • Ensure that there is adequate accessibility by fire vehicles to your property.

Protecting Your Property
Wildfires spread quickly, igniting brush, trees, and buildings. By incorporating the safeguards listed above, you can reduce your property exposure to wildfires. For additional resources on wildfires, please visit the following links:

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade is a Marketing Specialist for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on content marketing and social media.

In her free time, she enjoys running, biking, reading and exploring new cities.

Ask Eric: Is Pokémon Go a Liability for our Church?

// Eric Spacek, JD, ARM on Thursday July 21, 2016

A new trend has hit the streets, literally. Pokémon Go, a new game for iOS and Android devices was released in early July 2016. Developed around the Pokémon card game, this new game allows players to walk around town with a mobile device and catch Pokémon near them using the device’s camera. 

In just a short time, this game has become a widespread phenomenon. However, due to the nature of the game, some Pokémon players may end up on private property. We received the following question from one of our church customers concerning Pokémon Go on private property: 

Question – I found out last night that something near the north side of our church building is in the Pokémon Go game. I noticed a number of people driving into the parking lot, then driving into the north most parking section, and then leaving. This happened about six times over the course of 20 minutes. It has been repeated many times since then and we have VBS this week, so our parking lot has been full. Does this pose any sort of liability risk to us? 

Eric Spacek, GuideOne's Risk Management and Loss Control Director, provided some insight on this concern:

Answer – Yes. Technically, it is trespassing for people to come onto private property for this purpose. Much like the issue of skateboarders or ‘outsiders’ wanting to use the church playground, the church has options available to address this issue. Options include: 

  1. Understand what is on your property. Someone who has downloaded the game should be able to determine what objects from the game are on the church property before entering the property. Depending on the distance, the player does not always need to be on the property to catch the Pokémon. 
     
  2. Signage. This can run from the typical ‘no trespassing’ sign to signs as creative as the church wants to be. I’ve seen one from a church with the Pikachu character saying something along the lines of, “Pokémon trainers must not trespass on private property.” 
     
  3. Security/law enforcement. If the church sees it as a safety issue, particularly during VBS, they can position a security volunteer or request law enforcement to be near the location of the object to advise users that it is trespassing for them to be on the property for this purpose. Note that in most states, trespassers are owed the lowest duty of care so the liability risk is fairly low. This is also true considering that the level of physical activity by the game player is low as well. 
     
  4. Outreach. This could be viewed as a unique opportunity to reach the community. While some churches view it as an annoyance, others are using it in their outreach efforts. One church learned that an area of their property was a charging station for the game so they decided to provide water and information about their church to the players who went to that area. Giving the relatively low liability risk associated with the activity, they were not overly concerned with this approach. 

Pokémon Go and its players can be a concern for your church, but they also provide some opportunities. As a church, meet with your board or safety and security team to decide the best way for your church to handle this new game. 

Have a question regarding church safety or policy you would like to have answered? Send us an email! Submit your questions to connections@guideone.com and look for the answer in an upcoming blog post. 

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Space, JD, ARM is the Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Before joining GuideOne, he served as Minister of Operations for a large Methodist church in Raleigh, N.C., and was a liability litigation trial attorney in Washington, D.C.

6 Hazards to Look for In Your Church Nursery

// Katie Rynard on Tuesday July 19, 2016

Like the babies and toddlers who visit every week, your church nursery needs care and attention.  A safe, secure environment not only protects your church’s smallest members, it gives their parents peace of mind. 

Regular, thorough inspections are the best way to keep your nursery as safe as possible because they allow you to identify potential problems and take necessary steps to fix them. Here are a few of the hazards you’ll want to look for when conducting a walk-through:  


Potential problem: Long, loose cords
Smart solution: Cords are a strangulation and tip-over hazard, so keep cords for window coverings and electronics out of children’s reach, and never place cribs near windows with corded coverings. 

Potential problem: Cribs with wide or loose slats, or with wide gaps between the crib and the mattress
Smart solution: If your nursery has older or donated cribs, make sure they meet current crib safety guidelines. For instance, slats should be no more than 2 3/8 inches apart and you shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has more information on safe cribs here

Potential problem: Wooden toys with splintered edges
Smart solution: Inspect new and used toys on a regular basis. Say good-bye to toys that:

  • Have sharp edges or points
  • Have slots or holes that can pinch fingers
  • Have small or moving parts that aren’t securely fastened
  • Are broken and can’t be repaired
  • Are small enough to be choking hazards
  • Are made with lead-based paints

Additionally, it’s smart to keep tabs on toy recalls. On the CPSC website, you can search recalls and sign up for news alerts via email. 

Potential problem: Uncovered electrical outlets
Smart solution: Secure all outlets with childproof covers or cover plates, and install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets on any outlets within three feet of a water source.

Potential problem: A TV that’s not secured to its base
Smart solution: If your nursery has a TV, strap it to its stand (ideally a low, wide, movable base) or mount it to the wall. While you’re at it, secure bookcases and other furniture to the wall with anti-tip brackets or braces to prevent tip-over accidents.

Potential problem: Lack of a formal screening process for anyone who works with children
Smart solution: Conduct background checks on employees and volunteers, and keep these considerations in mind when screening applicants. Make sure all nursery staff and volunteers are well-aware of your church’s childcare policies and procedures.


Other hazards, like faulty equipment, may also exist. For more tips on what to look for as you inspect your church’s nursery, download GuideOne’s free guide, “Child Safety for Churches.” 

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard

Katie Rynard is a Corporate Communications Specialist at GuideOne Insurance.

When she's not at work, she enjoys decorating, traveling, trying new restaurants and spending time with her husband, daughter and dachshund puppy.

VBS Safety Tips

// Lindsay Taylor on Tuesday July 12, 2016

The summer months are a very popular time for churches to host Vacation Bible School (VBS). This week long event provides the perfect opportunity to teach the youngest members of your congregation more about your ministry. 

While this can be a fun time for everyone involved, there is always a chance for risks. In order to keep children, staff and volunteers safe during VBS, it is important to take various safety measures. 

Staff and Volunteers – The staff and volunteers who help out with VBS are essential to running a great program. However, it is important to screen everyone before they start in order to protect all children from a potentially harmful situation. Conduct a background check on each individual to ensure they do not have a criminal history. 

In addition, take measures to prevent harassment among staff and volunteer members. Conduct initial training for any new workers, and make sure all policies and procedures are communicated properly. 

Food Safety – Whether it is a snack, meal or part of an activity, food is often served at VBS. With the number of food allergies and food-related illnesses that can occur, it is important to be aware of the food you are preparing for the week.

  • Allergies – Avoid preparing foods that are commonly associated with food allergies such as peanuts, nuts and dairy products. It may also be beneficial to collect a list of food allergies that children or staff may have. If you are aware of their allergies, an allergic reaction may be easier to prevent. If an allergic reaction does take place, be sure your staff is educated on how to handle the situation, such as symptoms to look for, who to contact for medical attention and the use of an EpiPen. For more information on food allergies, visit the Food Allergies safety resource.
  • Preparation – If food is not prepared correctly, it can increase the chance for food borne illnesses to occur. It is very important to pay attention to cleanliness when preparing food. Make sure all staff and volunteers wash their hands before working with food and all utensils and cooking materials are clean. Additionally, ensure the foods you are using are not expired by checking the “use by” date and be sure to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables. To learn more about food preparation safety, visit the Food Safety – Preparing and Serving safety resource.  

Facility Safety – Hosting VBS at your facility typically means there is more equipment, materials and people around. To avoid accidents and injury, it is important to keep all of these extra items in tip top shape. Move all cords (speakers, microphones, projectors, etc.) away from walkways. If they must be there, tape them down with brightly colored tape for better visibility. Also, make sure all materials that may have been used for an activity or project are put away properly after use. Items left out and unattended may cause someone to trip. 

First Aid – With so many extra people, you can almost count on needing to use your First Aid kit during VBS, whether it be for a minor scrape or something more serious. Before the week begins, verify that your church or facility has a proper First Aid kit that is fully stocked, and consider training all staff and volunteers on First Aid basics and CPR. Additionally, create procedures on what to do in the event of a medical emergency, and educate all staff and volunteers on these procedures. Being prepared in the event of a medical emergency can help settle the situation and get the individual the necessary medical attention. 

By taking the above safety tips into consideration when planning and running your VBS this summer, it can help prevent unfortunate situations from taking place and allow for an overall great experience.  

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor

Lindsay Taylor is a Marketing Coordinator for GuideOne Insurance, focusing on marketing communications and the co-op program.

In her free time, she enjoys dancing, running and spending time with friends and family.

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)

// Eric Spacek, JD, ARM on Thursday June 30, 2016

Consider the following facts from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):

  • There are 300,000-400,000 deaths per year in the United States from cardiac arrest;
  • Most cardiac arrest deaths occur outside the hospital;
  • Current out-of-hospital survival rates are only 1 to 5 percent;
  • Every minute the heart is stopped, the likelihood of death increases by 10 percent;
  • The average response time for emergency providers is nine minutes; and 
  • The chance that someone will die of cardiac arrest in nine minutes is about 90 percent.

With this in mind, the leaders of many businesses, organizations, public entities, schools, and churches are becoming more proactive in attempting to save lives. While many of these facilities have people who are trained in CPR, many of them also have recently become interested in Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to help save even more lives. Many religious organizations see this as an extension of the ongoing care they give to their staff, congregation members, and visitors.

AEDs administer an electric shock to the heart. Built-in computers assess the patient’s heart rhythm, decide if defibrillation is necessary, and then administer a shock. If the patient does not need a shock, the machine will make that determination and will not defibrillate.

The growing popularity of these units is attributed to their small size, ease of use, and that they are designed for use by non-medical personnel. Because there is a slight chance that the machine will not respond correctly, it is important that those operating the device be thoroughly trained. It also is important to regularly inspect and maintain the units.

Most AED units cost around $3,000. If your organization is considering purchasing an AED, the following steps should be considered:

  • Consult a local physician, as the units typically may only be purchased with a prescription;
  • Train all users in CPR and AED operation;
  • Notify your local fire department or Emergency Medical Service (EMS) provider that you have purchased a unit;
  • Place the unit in a location that is easily accessible;
  • Educate congregation members on who will be allowed to use the unit;
  • Document any usage of the AED; and 
  • Have a physician oversee the program.

Source: SafeChurch.com

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Space, JD, ARM is the Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Before joining GuideOne, he served as Minister of Operations for a large Methodist church in Raleigh, N.C., and was a liability litigation trial attorney in Washington, D.C.

Things Your Church Should Know During an Election Year

// Eric Spacek, JD, ARM on Thursday June 23, 2016

The 2016 Presidential Election is in full swing with just under five months until Election Day on November 8, 2016. These months leading up to the election are crucial for campaigning and many organizations are asked to get involved. However, churches must be careful of the activities they participate in to avoid trouble. 

Under the law, churches are prohibited from participating in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition of any candidate for a public office. If a church does not abide by this limitation, it may impact their Internal Revenue Services (IRS) tax-exempt status. 

To assist in preventing issues from arising around these limitations, churches should refrain from engaging in the following activities: 

  • Donating money to a political campaign fund. 
  • Fundraising on behalf of a candidate. 
  • Providing a public statement in favor of, or in opposition to a candidate in a church publication or at a church function. 
  • Endorsing candidates. 
  • Campaign activities by employees within the context of their employment. 
  • Creating a newspaper ad to encourage voters to vote for or against a certain candidate. 

Although churches are not allowed to engage in certain events pertaining to an election or political campaign, there are still many ways to get involved with the election. Activities that a church may participate in during an election year include:

  • Providing a forum for candidates to address the church.
  • Inviting candidates to address the congregation – before each speech, the church should inform the congregation that the views expressed by the candidate are not the views of the churches and that the church does not endorse any candidate. 
  • Providing voter guides that are fair and impartial. Note that guides containing questions that display bias are not allowed. 
  • Distributing a list of voting records of major legislative issues from all members of Congress. 
  • Holding voter registration drives – the church must remain neutral.
  • The minister and other church employees may make public comments regarding the election, as long as they are not made at the church facility or in a church publication. The comments must include a statement that the comments are strictly personal and do not represent the church. 

For more information on the limitations surrounding churches involvement during an election, please visit the IRS website.

This material is for information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice. You are encouraged to consult with your own attorney or other expert consultants for a professional opinion specific to your situation. This information is only a general description of the available coverages and is not a contract. In an effort to keep your policy coverage affordable, the actual policy contains certain limitations and exclusion. Please refer to your insurance policy for the pertinent contract language and coverages. Some coverages and discounts are not available in all states. GuideOne welcomes all applications, without regard to religion, race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or familial status.

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Spacek, JD, ARM

Eric Space, JD, ARM is the Director of Risk Management and Loss Control at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa.  Before joining GuideOne, he served as Minister of Operations for a large Methodist church in Raleigh, N.C., and was a liability litigation trial attorney in Washington, D.C.

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