Is your church prepared for severe weather? - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Is your church prepared for severe weather?

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We are in the midst of the spring severe weather season. Chief meteorologist James Spann advises that everyone needs a plan. That includes one for your home, your work, and for your place of worship. At the very least, every house of worship needs to have a NOAA weather radio.

Beyond that, every congregation large or small, needs a severe weather plan.

Pastor T. L. Lewis looks back to April 27, 2011 when his church was destroyed by a tornado that ripped through Pratt City.

"After the tornado we became a church in transition. We're continuing to follow through with our next phase of our existence as a church," Lewis says.

Now, the church operates out of a strip mall near Adamsville while reconstruction takes place.

Since that fateful Wednesday, Lewis knows having a severe weather plan can save lives.

"If it's on a Sunday and you're broadcasting that severe weather is heading our way, then we have to adhere to what the possibilities are," says Lewis.

ABC 33/40 chief meteorologist James Spann believes every church should acknowledge this reality.

"If you're in the state of Alabama you are prone to a tornado and you've got to have a way of getting the warning and you've got to have a plan," Spann says. "I think a lot of churches just don't think about this."

At Prince of Peace Catholic Church, Bill Przybysz, head of the parish council, acknowledges the church didn't have a plan in place until recently.

"We just formed our safety, health and security committee, eight or nine months ago to start addressing those things even though the odds are small, you have to have something in place just in case."

Now, Pryzbysz tells me the church is training ushers to facilitate its severe weather plan.

The church has one weather radio but, they're looking to purchase more and have ushers nearby to hear any warning.

If that warning comes...

"We have one corridor near the main office that can hold up to 400 people. There's bathrooms that can house maybe 100 or 200," says Pryzbysz. "But the main opportunity is going over to the school. The school can house a large number of people on the first floor."

Stephen Hess, associate pastor at Crossroad Baptist Church in Hueytown, explains the plan in place at his church.

"We like to be prepared in case of anything," says Hess. "We have enough people with weather apps, so someone is going to be alerted. We would head out the backdoors and down the hallways, down the stairs and into the children's area.

The underground area has space for all 300 members of the congregation at any given time. The church also opens its doors to its neighbors who may not have access to storm shelters.

Ultimately, James Spann says churches and other places of worship shouldn't just think about planning for severe weather after tragedy strikes.

"Unfortunately it tends to take a severe weather tragedy for businesses and churches to think about this. But this is the perfect time to do it. This is the tornado season. Every house of worship should have a way of getting warnings. They have to have a plan," says Spann.

These are steps every house of worship needs:

-Train staff and volunteers to monitor possible severe weather
-Move out of large, open areas such as sanctuaries and gyms
-Go into safe rooms or designated shelter areas
-Put up clear signage to guide people
-Equip each safe area with battery-operated flashlights, a weather radio and extra batteries  

 

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