What To Do

Continuity of Ministry & Operations Plan (COMOP)
Preparing your church (i.e. operations, ministries and parishioners) will help to save lives, reduce human suffering, protect vital records and property, and strengthen your position to give leadership, comfort and hope to your community when disaster strikes.

Preparing your church will take time, commitment and teamwork. It will require an organized and comprehensive Continuity of Ministry & Operations Plan with progressive phases and steps that can be spread out over time, as needed, so as not to become overly burdensome or unattainable. Remember this practical advice, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, “One bite at a time.”

Focus On One Planning Phase at a Time
Focus on only one COMOP phase at a time until it is completed. Then, move on to the next phase. Establish deadlines to keep the process moving. Involve as many Stakeholders and Key Stakeholders as possible; you will need their input. Keep in mind, Stakeholders are individuals, ministries and departments in your church, and other groups which will be impacted by, or can impact, the outcome of the vision. Key Stakeholders are a subset of Stakeholders who, if their support were to be withdrawn, would cause the planning process and vision to fail (e.g., pastoral leadership).

Overview of COMOP Phases
Continuity of Ministry & Operations Plan phases include:

Phase I: Get Organized
Start with the proper foundation to ensure success.

  • Step 1: Prepare reasons for support
  • Step 2: Obtain commitment and support from senior church leadership
  • Step 3: Identify a Disaster Preparedness & Response Coordinator
  • Step 4: Establish a Disaster Preparedness & Response Leadership Team
  • Step 5: Document and disseminate information
  • Step 6: Model the message by doing it
  • Step 7: Before, during and after a disaster - think about disaster preparedness

Phase II: Conduct a Church Impact Study
Determine how your church will be affected if any ministry function or operations process is made unavailable by a disaster, for any period of time. Establish a basis for setting (in future COMOP phases) recovery priorities, determining minimum ministry and operating requirements, and selecting appropriate recovery strategies.

  • Step 1: Look for lessons learned
  • Step 2: Profile church facility and conduct a room survey
  • Step 3: Document church activities and facility schedules
  • Step 4: Document family preparedness and emergency plan strategies
  • Step 5: Document current parishioner and staff communication methods and create a call-down procedure in case of emergency
  • Step 6: Identify vulnerable parishioners and at-risk populations
  • Step 7: Profile the community

Phase III: Conduct a Church Ministry & Operations Risk Assessment
Identify natural and man-made disasters that could interrupt or impede church ministries or operations. Weigh the potential loss of critical church assets, resources and ministry due to a disaster, against the cost of taking protective measures to reduce the threats or risks to which they are exposed.

  • Step 1: Identify ministries, processes, and assets critical to survival and recovery
  • Step 2: Understand probabilities and collateral effects of threats and hazards
  • Step 3: Determine risk reduction or mitigation strategies

Phase IV: Determine Continuity and Recovery Strategies
Develop options for the restoration of critical church processes and ministries; including power, technology, communication, and facilities. Focus priorities on what has been deemed essential or critical operations and ministries.

  • Step 1: Review priorities for ministry functions and operation processes
  • Step 2: Evaluate church facility emergency preparedness
  • Step 3: Evaluate alternate facility options and establish mutual aid agreements
  • Step 4: Evaluate alternate communication options
  • Step 5: Evaluate information backup and restore processes
  • Step 6: Evaluate ministry services and support to parishioners and area residents

Phase V: Build the Plan
Develop the Continuity of Ministry & Operations Plan by incorporating actions required to respond, recover and resume church operation processes and ministries. Segment the plan into manageable areas of responsibility. Create annexes or appendices, when possible, to simplify testing and updating.

  • Step 1: Articulate basic steps for protecting church property
  • Step 2: Prepare a church facility emergency supply kit
  • Step 3: Prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms (if applicable)
  • Step 4: Plan for floods and flash floods
  • Step 5: Plan for tornadoes
  • Step 6: Plan for fires
  • Step 7: Plan for explosions and bomb threats
  • Step 8: Plan for other disturbances
  • Step 9: Plan for hazardous materials exposure

Phase VI: Exercise and Validate the Plan
Test the plan to expose areas that need to be updated to correct deficiencies and/or omissions. Until the plan has been exercised and validated through testing, it is of limited use.

  • Step 1: Critical success factors
  • Step 2: Actions for typical exercises
  • Step 3: Update the plan

Phase VII: Modify and Update the Plan
Your COMOP is a living document and should be updated to reflect changes in church operations, staff and to incorporate deficiencies found during the testing phase. Best practices dictate that plans should be updated at least annually. However, conditions in your church might prompt more frequent updates.

  • Step 1: Coordinate plan maintenance
  • Step 2: Develop a Continuity of Ministry & Operations Plan training program

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