A member of the Community Emergency Response Team assists an injured woman
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The Potter’s House Trains Congregation to Take Quick Action

March 2016

The Potter’s House Trains Congregation to Take Quick Action
One of the largest nondenominational churches in the Nation prepares its community for hazards and security threats
Multiple hazards threaten the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), TX, metro area, including tornadoes, floods, and other severe weather. DFW’s geography and climate make hazards like these a year-round concern.
Severe weather can quickly result in dangerous road conditions and other safety issues for residents,
including the attendees of local churches.

Partnerships Help Ensure Safety on Church Campuses
Every Sunday, The Potter’s House, a nondenominational church founded by Bishop T.D. Jakes, leads a congregation of more than 30,000 members across its campuses in DFW, as well as an additional campus in Denver, CO. During the week, nearly 1,000 people attend the DFW campuses for additional meetings. Additionally, more than 300 employees work at the T.D. Jakes Ministries Headquarters in Dallas, TX.
To ensure the safety of his congregation in the event of emergencies, Bishop Jakes turns to Sean Smith, Chief Executive of Security Operations at The Potter’s House. To increase its preparedness initiatives and be more resilient, The Potter’s House partnered with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships as part of its nationwide effort in assisting the faith community take action before, during and after emergencies.

Text Box: “Preparation empowers our members to take part in the safety of their own church. We think it’s important for them to take part not only in the worship experience, but also in the safety experience.”  – Sean Smith, Chief Executive of Security Operations, The Potter’s House On September 23, 2015, nearly 40 participants gathered at The Potter’s House to join the millions of other people who took preparedness action in collaboration with America’s PrepareAthon! Using excerpts from the America’s PrepareAthon! Tornado Playbook, participants took part in a tabletop exercise simulating a response to a tornado hitting near the church. Since it relies heavily on volunteer support, The Potter’s House wanted to make sure that everyone can respond appropriately. “We need to prepare everyone,” said Smith, “not just our safety or security staff, but also our choir, the facilities management team, our ushers, and volunteer leaders.”Representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships assisted The Potter’s House staff with testing and improving their current emergency operations plan alongside local emergency management; and coordinating outreach to other faith leaders regarding the importance of developing, testing, and revising an all-hazards emergency operations plan.

By the end of the activity, participants knew where to find building exits, how to shut off the power in the event of a lightning strike, where to shelter in place, and where to set up a triage area. Reflecting on the activity’s success, Smith said, “It became a matter of empowering people and letting them know that when the Security Operations staff need help, others must shift quickly from their roles as church members into their roles as support staff.” To empower volunteers further, The Potter’s House partnered with Cassandra Wallace, Senior Emergency Management Specialist and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program Manager with the City of Dallas Office of Emergency Management, to better prepare church ushers. The Potter’s House views its ushers as preparedness ambassadors during church services, and it is scheduling training for all church ushers in the city’s CERT class. Once training is complete, Smith plans to incorporate ushers into the church’s crisis response plan.

Mobile App Empowers Congregants to Mitigate Safety and Security Issues
In addition to the tabletop and usher training initiatives, The Potter’s House staff emphasize the importance of signing up for local alerts and warning systems with their congregation.
On November 29, 2015, The Potter’s House began promoting the LiveSafe® app, which allows users to report crimes, suspicious activity, and traffic problems via text message without having to dial 911. It also allows users to take photos of suspicious activity and report it to The Potter’s House security team. Staff members use the information to issue timely, accurate alerts via social media, as well as mass calls and text messages to the church community. These communication efforts will help staff and congregants get the information they need to take appropriate action before, during, and after an emergency.
“It is essential to develop effective security protocols, policies, and resources to have the ability to respond to disasters and emergencies,” said Bishop Jakes. “The Potter’s House looks forward to expanding upon our efforts in the New Year.”
The partnership between The Potter’s House and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships continues into the spring, and plans are well underway to continue to get their congregation prepared for the next disaster before it happens.