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Making the Risk Management Difference
Equipping Your Safety Team

By Arthur F. Blinci and David Fournier  
 
Accidents happen every week in Adventist Churches and Schools.  From 2009 to 2013 the North American Division had 6,170 property, general liability and auto claims. The total cost of those claims for that period was $116,317,411.  These claims represent a significant amount of funds, lost time, and interruption of ministry for the Church. This disrupts ministry, not just at the administrative level, but also at every level, particularly at the local church and school. As the local church administrator it is important for you to understand the effects that effective care and maintenance of your facilities as well as the proper management of church activities can have on your ministry.
 
Lets take a look at these loss trends in just a bit more detail.
 
Property Losses
The North American Division in the last five years had 2,770 Property Claims and a total cost incurred of $57,741,224 for those claims.
See below the top five property losses experienced across the North American Division by cost and number of claims.
  

 
Of interest here is that while fire certainly costs the most, the greatest frequency of claims comes from crime followed closely by water damage. To a risk manager this means we need to pay more attention to security to address the crime losses. But crime losses, while frequent, do not create the same financial cost as the water damage. Water damage issues can be traced directly to lack of maintenance. While storms are often blamed for water damage issues, it is often the poor condition of the facility as it faces a storm that is the real problem.
 
To learn more about Protecting Your Church From Crime http://youtu.be/8CNl1Iwd244
To learn more about Water Damage http://youtu.be/bJImnQ-thqU
 
General Liability & Auto Liability Losses    
The North American Division in the last five years had 2,089 General Liability claims with a total cost of $33,923,942. During this same time period there were 1311 Auto Liability claims, which resulted in an additional cost of $24,652,245. Often times these claims can be prevented by having a strong safety program at your church or school.
 
General Liability and Auto Liability insurance is designed to protect your organization from the cost of accidents which may result in lawsuits due to negligence.  Examples would include:  people who are injured from a slip and fall accident, caused by a poorly maintained building, lack of proper supervision or training of participants during a church sponsored activity, texting or excessive speed when transporting people during a church outing.  These types of accidents have resulted in serious injury and even death to our church members and students.
 
What We Can Do
 
First, we can help mitigate the cost of these claims by promptly reporting all accidents to your Conference and the insurance company within 48 hours or less.  Lets look again at our North American loss statistics to see how long it takes to report a claim.  The average lag-time between the accident’s occurrence and the first report to Adventist Risk Management is 65 days!  It is a proven axiom in the insurance industry the longer a claim remains unreported the higher the cost.  We all can make a difference in this critical risk management area.  When an accident occurs at your church you can immediately report the incident to our office at any time day or night.  Adventist Risk Management maintains a 24-hour/7 day a week Claims reporting toll-free hotline at (888) 951-4276 to handle all types of accidents. 
 
Some may wonder, why Adventist Risk Management would take a call during Sabbath hours?  Remember the words of Jesus in Luke 14:5 – of recuing a person’s ox which had fallen into a ditch on Sabbath.  Yes, our ministry includes responding to help your ministry in times of need.
 
10 Best Practice Steps in Reporting an Accident
  1. Provide emergency medical first aid to any injured person.
  2. Notify Emergency first-responders as may be needed for assistance.
  3. Secure the area to prevent others from being injured.
  4. Take appropriate actions to prevent the occurrence of any additional damage.
  5. Take photos of the scene or damage and secure names and contact information from individuals who may have witnessed the accident.
  6. DO NOT ASSUME LIABILITY FOR THE ACCIDENT
  7. Report the Accident immediately to Adventist Risk Management (888) 951-4276 or your insurance carrier.
  8. Notify your Conference administration of the accident and steps taken.
  9. Complete any required claim reporting forms and return to your insurance company.
  10. Cooperate with assigned claim adjustors or legal counsel.
Second, having an effective and proactive safety program at your church or school can be done with a few simple steps. Running an effective safety program doesn't have to be difficult and it doesn't have to take a great deal of time. Adventist Risk Management (ARM) has prepared the tools and the education to assist you.
 
Whether your church is large or small you can successfully operate a safety program that is neither time nor energy intensive. You and your designated Safety Officer don’t need a specialized degree to do this. The reward for your efforts is the knowledge that your work may save thousands of church dollars. These can be used for to further telling the story of Jesus in your community. Another benefit is that you have possibly saved people from injury, or even saved a life. 
 
Direct your church safety officer to their home base at the Safety Officer Central page (http://www.adventistrisk.org/Prevention/Church.aspx) in the Prevention section of the ARM website. These pages will provide them with the resources the need. 
        
There are four essential elements of your safety program. 
 
1. Evaluation & Risk Identification
 
All safety programs begin by identifying the risks and hazards that may cause accidents or injuries in your facilities.  We accomplish this through careful evaluation of the physical condition of your facility.  Evaluation includes looking at the interior, exterior of buildings as well as the surrounding property. 
ARM has created several simple tools to use in the evaluation process. (http://www.adventistrisk.org/prevention-resources/safety-officer-central/evaluation) The church self-inspection form is a very easy-to-use tool. The fillable digital form can be completed on your computer or tablet. You also have the option to print it and fill it out manually.
 
Basically, the form guides you through the various parts of a church–from the mothers’ room to the sanctuary, the baptismal tank, etc. It will show you how to look for potential hazards or maintenance issues. Completing this form at least once a year will give you a good idea of what type of risks your church might be facing. It will also help you understand what kind of maintenance issues you should be addressing. This information will guide you and the board to understand the maintenance focus and how to prioritize these issues.       
 
The length of the inspection will depend on the size and complexity of your church or school building. Our professional risk control specialists find that even after conducting a thorough inspection of a facility, the next year they will find problems they missed before, as well as new problems that have cropped up. This demonstrates the importance of regular inspections and maintenance.
 
The following links provide access to a 30-minute webinar about conducting self-inspections from one of our risk control specialists, as well as a short video. 
 
Link to webinar on self-inspections (http://youtu.be/MaCQxhoZX4A)
 
Link to video on self-inspections (http://youtu.be/jMwsjM-DXNQ)
 
2. Emergency Planning
 
Emergency planning is incredibly important for your local church as well.  An emergency can occur at any time.  Would your congregation know how to respond if the fire alarm sounded during your sermon on Sabbath morning?  Being prepared requires both planning and practice.  Developing an Emergency Plan and having an annual practice drill can make the difference. You will find resources for building an emergency plan on the Safety Officer Central (http://www.adventistrisk.org/prevention-resources/safety-officer-central/emergency-planning) page of the Prevention section of our website. Several guides are posted on that page. Pay special attention to the Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship. The United States Department of Homeland Security has developed this guide. It walks you through all of the questions you should ask yourself as you're creating your emergency plan. This is not something where one size fits all situations The value of an emergency plan is in the customization of the plan for your local church or school. 
 
Building your emergency plan may be one of the more time intensive parts of a safety program, but it is well worth the effort. Work with a team of people and develop the plan in a systematic way, rather than trying to muscle through it all by yourself over a weekend.    
 
Don't forget that the last part of emergency planning may be the most important and that is to practice your plan.
 
Link to webinar on Emergency Planning (http://youtu.be/AGxLLV1fwgE)
 
3. Maintenance 
 
Perhaps you were thinking that maintenance would not be a part of the Safety Officer job description, but it is a closely connected issue. One of the most frequent property claims received at Adventist Risk Management is related to water damage. The most common casualty claim is a slip and fall injury. Both of these typically stem from maintenance issues, such as torn carpeting or a leaky baptistry.
 
Many of the risks and hazards you will want to address will be maintenance issues. You will want to work closely with whoever is responsible for the care and upkeep of your church or school.  Performing seasonal maintenance on different parts of your building such as gutters, walkways, and roofing materials will play a big part in understanding and preventing the property and casualty risks that your church maybe facing. 
 
We have prepared  seasonal based checklists to help you conduct your maintenance schedule in a methodical way. Visit the Maintenance page of Safety Officer Central to learn more and access the resources (http://www.adventistrisk.org/prevention-resources/safety-officer-central/maintenance)
 
 
4. Stay Informed
 
The fourth step to running a successful safety program at your church is to continue to educate yourself. Adventist Risk Management provides Solutions, the weekly e-newsletter on safety topics relevant to the church. Please encourage your board members to subscribe to this free resource. Topics will be of interest to your safety officer as well as all of the other ministry leaders.
 
We also conduct webinars once a month on safety topics specifically designed for safety at the local church and school. Our team of risk management professionals is always working on new tools and materials.
 
Register for upcoming webinars or view previously recorded meetings at: http://www.adventistrisk.org/prevention-resources/webinars/safety-webinars
 
 
ARM encourages all pastors to Take advantage of these opportunities. Share the information with your deacons, church leadership, and ministry leaders. Appoint a  church safety officer who can take a real leadership role in building a safety culture within  your church. Empower them and support them as they provide a much-needed ministry to your church. Their work provides for the safety of the  members and visitors. Your church can be a light in the community emphasizing the fact that you are people who care about the physical and spiritual well being of others.
 
 
Arthur F. Blinci is the Vice President and Chief Risk Management Officer for Adventist Risk Management Inc.

David Fournier is the Manager of Client Care for Adventist Risk Management, Inc.