Posted on : Monday November 8, 2010

By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent

KNOXVILLE, Md.—Al  Caho, a deacon at Faith Church, Knoxville  says preparing for fire and medical emergencies lets members and visitors know the church cares about them.

“We’ve had several people visit the church with small children and when they see that we’re equipped and prepared they say, ‘you guys are looking out for the safety of our kids.’”

Caho, a retired Deputy Sheriff, and a current Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), said churches can start with the very basics—having several members trained in CPR, especially those dealing with children and senior adults; an adequate number of fire extinguishers, and maintaining visible, accessible first aid kits. Faith Knoxville goes a couple steps further with a biohazard kit for body fluid clean-ups and an automated external defibrillator (AED).

“We’re in a rural environment surrounded by farm lands, on the border between two separate fire companies. We know we’re on our own before rescuers can get to us. We have to be ready,” he said.

Faith’s preparedness not only impresses visitors, but it also gets a big thumbs up from the fire marshal.  In addition to routine fire inspections, Caho suggests inviting the local fire company to do a safety check. It provides valuable information for the church and it gives emergency workers an idea of the church layout, so they can be prepared for in case of an emergency.

Caho advises churches to examine crowd control and special events. He said to know the parameters—how many people can the church handle and stay within the fire code? Faith Knoxville often offers tickets for special events. The tickets are free, but control the number of visitors. He also suggests appointing one key contact during a large event and let him be a “floater,” making sure he or she is available via radio or telephone at all times. Special events bring more people, and sometimes additional decorations.  During VBS there are often a lot of props, blocking aisles and exits—a violation of the fire code. Christmas and Easter bring many more visitors to the church, seasonal decorations and many times, candles. Special precautions have to be observed during these times. Are there flammables that could be dangerous when using candles? Are exits visible at all times?

Another simple necessary precaution is to ensure that whoever leaves the church last turns off electrical equipment such as coffee pots. Caho said many fires begin as a result of small appliances that got left on.

Caho said taking precautions to avoid medical/fire emergencies is love in action.