The blaring alarm only compounds your fear as you search from room to room. “Was it really just minutes ago that I dropped my children off for their Sabbath School classes,” you ask yourself. Other frantic parents are also calling for their children. Chaos swirls around everyone, threatening to swallow up any sense of peace.

Another father grabs your arm. “The children are safe outside,” he shouts above the clamor. “The Sabbath School teachers took them there.” As you emerge from the church, you are momentarily blinded by the brightness of the sun. Then you feel your children bury their faces in your smoky Sabbath clothing and cling to you.

As the reality of the church fire sets in, you are grateful for the Sabbath School teachers recently trained for such emergencies. The foresight of the church board to implement this type of leadership education prevented a greater tragedy from happening.


Each Seventh-day Adventist church should be a place where members worship and fellowship together. It should be a place of peace and rest. Members cast off their burdens and kneel at the feet of Jesus. Unfortunately, the realities of this world bring stressful times. Churches are not exempt from emergencies, such as active shooters and fires. How can the church itself be a safe place if an emergency plan is not in place? When was the last time your congregation practiced a safety drill?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 1,660 fires took place in religious settings in 2011. Although the number of fires continues to decrease, this is not the time to relax our preparedness. There are other emergencies that occur in our communities. Church leadership must acknowledge that these can happen in any congregation and prepare the congregation to react responsibly.

According to Church Law & Tax, “there were 135 incidents of shootings at places of worship in the U.S. in 2012” and the frequency of mass shootings appears to be increasing. Active shootings in church settings are receiving increasing attention, which prompts church leaders to create, implement, and practice a safety plan. When there is a plan in place and leaders have been trained for these incidents, there is a better chance to save lives.


North American Division church leadership has designated March 26, 2016 as Safety Sabbath. This provides an opportunity for churches and schools to participate in a variety of drills, training, and emergency planning sessions to prepare for any eventual crisis.

It will also serve to facilitate as a church and/or school emergency drill. Safety Sabbath is a benefit for those who may not conduct regular emergency drills. Safety Sabbath will remind everyone about the importance of safety, not only for the church but members and visitors as well.

Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM), the church’s risk manager, will provide free resource kits on a variety of emergency plans, including fire drills and active shooter drills. Churches can register for a Safety Sabbath Kit, with all the resources specific to a chosen drill. During the month of March, each church will focus on a chosen drill and emphasize its importance to the church members. Then on March 26, every church in North America will hold a safety drill of their choice on Safety Sabbath.

At ARM, we work to educate members and church leaders to ensure the safety of congregations and the church itself. The most effective way to do this is by implementing preventive measures and practicing what to do in a variety of crisis situations. It prepares everyone to know what to do when the alarm sounds.

We want every church and school to be a place of fellowship, peace, and rest. Planning and practicing for emergencies gives members and visitors confidence that their safety is important each time they step through the door.

Prepare your local church and be a part of the March 26 Safety Sabbath event. Visit for more information.

Elizabeth Camps is a writer and public relations specialist for Adventist Risk Management, Inc. in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA.