Begin at the beginning!
By Michael J. Bemi
You probably noticed that this new series of articles has been retitled to Never Again: Beyond Insurance. But, how does a church organization get “beyond insurance” — and should it even try?
Let us first agree that insurance is critical for any organization that provides services to any community. However, it is actually designed as a “safety net” or “safety cushion” to protect us, our families and the organizations we work for (or are active with) from unforeseen, potentially devastating events that require financial outlays unaffordable for most individuals, families or organizations.
So, we all want — and need — that safety net.
Even so, as people of faith, we are called to be the best stewards of all the resources we have been blessed with. These include:
• The people we serve
• Those who assist with our ministries
• Our physical assets (buildings, furniture, fixtures, equipment, vehicles and so on)
• Our financial assets (land, financial instruments, bequests, charitable trusts, weekly contributions, etc.)
Now consider: Are we really being the best stewards we can be by simply purchasing insurance to protect us when something “goes wrong” involving our resources? As believers, are we not called to protect and nurture life; to not damage property of others; to not disrupt legitimate activities or undertakings of others?
If so, we need to move beyond just good insurance.
Where to start
There exists a theoretical and related practical risk management framework to help us move “beyond insurance.” It follows a step-by-step process.
So, let’s begin at the beginning.
The process begins with Risk Identification, Analysis and Evaluation. I know — it sounds a bit foreboding, and perhaps also costly and very time-consuming. But it need not be any of those things.
The principle is simple: You need to work to develop a level of safety awareness and consciousness that is consistently employed by: (1) identifying and cataloging the resources / assets you have been blessed with; (2) considering how those resources are used; and (3) considering how the use of those resources in ministry could lead to, or be affected by, some loss scenario.
Some examples will demonstrate that this is not rocket science.
For instance, I’m guessing you have a church and perhaps a school and a parish center. Is there a process and a person (better yet, a group of people) responsible for regularly checking things such as:
- Torn or loose carpeting?
- Loose handrails on stairways?
- Lighting that’s not functioning?
- Door locks that aren’t working or are easily “jimmied”?
- Chipped or crumbling entry sidewalks or stairs?
- Potholes in the parking lot?
- Lack of ABC fire extinguishers or extinguishers not currently tagged for operability?
- Non-functioning fire / burglar alarms?
- Exit signs that are not functioning or exits not posted?
- Electrical outlets that are overloaded?
- Rooms or compartments containing valuable items that are left open, unlocked or unattended?
- No procedure for controlling admission of visitors/guests?
- No emergency contact plan and posted instructions?
Do your facilities have evacuation plans that are posted and practiced?
Do you have vehicles? Are they regularly and properly maintained? Do you restrict who may drive them? Are your approved drivers properly licensed and trained? Do you obtain annual motor vehicle reports on your drivers? Is there a protocol that defines allowable vehicle use?
Regarding your ministries, do you consider not only how they will benefit people, but also the many ways in which people could be inadvertently — or purposefully — injured or damaged in the performance of these ministries, if you do not properly control and direct who performs them and how they are (and are not) to be performed?
Two critical things to note:
(1) You can get a lot of free help with these matters from your insurance broker or insurance carriers or third-party administrator; and
(2) You need to make these matters a regular, standardized, scheduled process, with identified individuals responsible.
So, now you know where to begin!
Michael J. Bemi is president & CEO of The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. (Lisle, IL) — a recognized leader in risk management. To learn more about available coverage — and to get valuable tools, facts and statistics — visit www.tncrrg.org.