I interviewed Jim May, an elder from the congregation, about the church’s experience. Mr. May told me that if his story could help someone, he wanted me to share it. He doesn’t want your church, like his, to have to say “hindsight is 20/20.”
In January of 2016, someone left a food warmer on in the church kitchen overnight which started a fire. It ruined the kitchen and part of the main worship building.
Mr. May was unprepared for the length and uncertainty of the process. It was 6-8 months before the completion of the repairs. Imagine the difficulty of conducting regular worship when you don’t know when you’ll have a regular place to meet. The congregation also had many questions that were hard to get answers to, and when the insurance company asked for necessary information, they didn’t know or couldn’t readily supply the information.
Mr. May and his congregation learned that the best way to handle a devastating loss is to be prepared beforehand. The lessons Mr. May wants to share with you are these:
Have an emergency plan.
Practice the plan.
Make an inventory.
Understand the claims process before you have a loss.
In the event of a loss, it’s also important to know your responsibilities. This expedites the recovery process. Here are the steps Sulphur Well should have taken after the loss to make the process easier.
Prevent further damage to the property.
Report the loss, and get a claim number.
Record every conversation, i.e. who said what would happen by when.
Find your insurance policy and read the "reporting a claim" section.
Submit an inventory of what was lost, because it is the congregation's responsibility to prove the loss
It was easy for Mr. May and the Sulphur Well congregation to see how they should have prepared. We want to encourage you to look at your congregation’s preparedness. Ask the difficult questions now, and use the answers to create a plan.
Things for You to Consider before Disaster Strikes
What is your plan in the event of a disaster?
Is it documented in a safe location other than the church building?
How will you communicate to the congregation when a major loss occurs?