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Is Your Church Prepared for a Natural Disaster?


On Sunday, May 22, 2011, a devastating EF5 tornado hit Joplin, Missouri. It ranks as one of the nation’s deadliest tornados, taking 159 lives and causing over $3 billion worth of damage. No one could have foreseen or truly prepared for such a tragedy. But it serves as a reminder for us to review and evaluate the plans we have for dealing with disaster.

Here are some considerations in evaluating your church’s disaster preparedness.

Replacement Cost Coverage.
A disaster is not the time to find out if you have enough insurance coverage. One way to determine the proper amount is to ask your agent to run a Marshall-Swift appraisal to establish the replacement cost of your building. Many insurance policies require buildings be insured for 80% or 90% of replacement cost in order for the loss to be fully insured.(Replacement cost is not what the building may bring if it were to sell, or the market value.) There can be penalties for a partial loss, so you may only get a percentage of your total loss.

A Second Tragedy in Joplin.
A distressing example is a church in Joplin that suffered a complete loss. The congregation had insured the building for the amount they believed it was worth, or $2,000,000. Unfortunately, the replacement cost of the building is $4,000,000, leaving this church and its members in a quandary of how to replace the building.

Inventory of Business Personal Property.
If your building is completely destroyed, will you have a record of the property inside? Use a video camera to document the business personal property (contents) in the church. Store the video file at a different location so a list can be made in case of a loss. Or keep a church inventory list (at a different location) including item description, date and place of purchase, and value or price paid. Remember, contents should also be insured for replacement cost.

Disaster Preparedness Plan.
Does your church have an emergency plan in the event a disaster strikes? Having a disaster plan in place so members and leaders know what to do in case of a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake is essential to any ministry.

Unheeded Warnings in Joplin.
Unfortunately, the Joplin tornado hit on a Sunday afternoon while some churches were having services. One church did not heed any of the warnings and continued to have services, resulting in seven deaths. This lack of a reaction has placed the church a highly liable situation, due to the fact that the church did not take steps to protect the lives of its members.

When disaster strikes, churches have a heart for helping those impacted. What if your church wants to send volunteers? In order to protect your ministry, the church should have an Activity Participation Agreement signed by each volunteer. Age limits on volunteers are also appropriate until the area is determined to be safe.

Hopefully a disaster of this magnitude will never impact your area. Taking these steps will help ensure that if disaster does occur, you will be prepared and your church can continue its ministry.

If you have questions on replacement costs, inventory checklists, disaster preparedness plans, or to obtaining an Activity Participation Agreement, contact AGFinancial Insurance Solutions at 866.662.8210 or visit

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